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Saturday, December 31, 2011

AND MY GOALS FOR 2012 ARE...

Good Saturday morning!

The Gallery Pics are of our first (but not last) trip to Mugshots this past Monday. Good eatin'.

Austin's Over-the-Pond Adventure

I made a little mistake in yesterday's report. Austin saw the Tower of London (outside), but he didn't get to see the Crown Jewels (inside) until today. I apologize.

The main topic of conversation late yesterday afternoon was food, bridges and pictures.

Food - Austin has obviously stopped in his quest to find the perfect English food and started looking for good English/Italian food. He had a barbecue chicken pizza at a place called Frankie's Italian and a meatball sub at an organic sandwich shop near his hotel.

At 11:00 last night (London time), he was beginning to regret those two decisions.

Bridges - He quickly gave us the history of the bridges. The fourth London Bridge is now in place. The third London Bridge (remember the song) was bought by a rich Texan and now resides in Arizona. I told Melia we need to take a road trip to see the "real" London Bridge. (The trip is in the planning stages.)

He spoke of two more bridges to Melia, and photographed them... a lot. (He may be changing his major to Architecture in the near future.)

Pictures - The Boy has gone picture-takin' crazy, I tell you. He's even going back before the trip is over to take more pictures of the bridges.

But today, he will be touring!

He's already finished his tour of the town of Windsor AND the Tower of London. (He saw the Crown Jewels a few hours ago!)

And now... Now he is about to get on the subway to go back to the Hotel. (It is 4:00 in the afternoon in London as I type this.)

I hope he doesn't run into his Irish Republican friend on the subway... or the Underground, as they call it. (By the way, Austin told Melia the Irish Republican's name was Ernest. Nice to know.)

He's eating dinner at the Palace Suite at the Hotel tonight, so he will not be eating Italian. I'll let you know if he tries anything more exotic than a chicken barbecue pizza.

He's safe, happy and having the time of his life.

And that's all a maternal parental unit needs to know!

Goals for 2012

My Goals for 2012 are not very "deep" and "introspective." I don't think I'm very "deep" or "introspective." (I think one of my Goals for 2011 was to do/make/accomplish a reduction sauce in the kitchen. I'll tell you right now, that one is going to carry over to Goals for 2012.)

Most of these are not life-changing, so don't plan on getting any good ideas from this list.

1. Do/make/accomplish a reduction sauce in the kitchen.

2. Zip-line ANYWHERE. This is also on my "100 Things To Do Before I'm 90" List, but I have a feeling if I don't do it soon, I may not do it at all. This is the year.

3. Continue to walk and Body Pump throughout 2012... and fill my Exercise Quarter Jar in the process. (Cheesecake Factory... here we come!)

4. Buy some (and get into) skinny jeans so I can wear the beautiful brown suede boots I bought without being a walking/talking fashion faux pas.

5. Buy an incredibly long tunic to wear over the top of the skinny jeans so as not offend anyone who sees me in public.

6. Get more pedicures. I had two in 2011... and two is just not enough. When I'm getting a pedicure, it's instant happiness. I need at least 36 a year to "make it."

7. Have less panic attacks. (I think the pedicure goal may help with this one.)

8. Ride a train to New Orleans with family and friends. (This one is already planned!)

9. White-water raft with my family down the Ocoee this summer. (Have a pedicure immediately after the rafting trip.) I've rafted five times. Mikie has rafted four times. Austin has rafted once. Josh and Roxie... here we go!)

10. Eat at two more restaurants featured in Diners, Drive-thrus and Dives. (Mikie and I have eaten at a total of five! We want to make it seven by 2013!)

I know what you're thinking... "So inspirational."

My theory is, "Life is hard enough without setting unobtainable or uber-serious goals and/or resolutions the beginning of every year."

You can quote me on that one!

Take care, and I'll talk to you Monday morning.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

P.S. HAPPY NEW YEAR TOMORROW!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Last Date of the Year

Good Friday morning!

I have a few miscellaneous Christmas pics left over in the Gallery today. I think Christmas has been well-documented.

Austin's Over-the-Pond Adventure

After a couple of text messages yesterday, The Boy forgot the rule about contacting one of The Faulkner Five before calling it a day.

He only has to leave three pieces of information in this daily text.

1. "I am alive."

2. "I am having fun."

3. "I am coming home on the 4th."

That's all. I don't think it's too much to ask.

So, when 6:00 p.m. rolled around, I started getting a little antsy. If it is 6:00 p.m. in Alabama, it is midnight in London. No text. No call. Nothing. Nada.

So Mikie and I stayed awake until 12:30 a.m. waiting for The Boy to wake up and call us at the BEGINNING of his day... and he did.

1. He is alive.

2. He is having fun.

3. He is still planning on coming home on the 4th.

That's all a maternal parental unit needs. Just a little something to let us know The Boy is surviving and thriving.

Today is a pretty big day for the Southerners. When you read this, they will have already completed a tour of the Palace of Westminster, the two Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London... eaten lunch in Trafalgar Square... and performed a concert in Trafalgar Square.

Austin was planning on spending the afternoon going on one or two of the SIX walking tours offered.

I do have a little more information about his first day in London.

1. He ate fish and chips... and they were "fine."

2. He ate spareribs for dinner... and they were "fine." ("Fine" indicates the food was edible, but he hasn't found the really good stuff yet. But he will. He's determined.)

3. He and some of his friends were approached by an inebriated Irish Republican while eating lunch yesterday. He tried to engage them in a discussion of politics. One of the memos we received specifically told the band members NOT to discuss politics while in London.

When the guys refused to talk politics, Mr. Irish Republican informed them his favorite President was Charles W. Bush. (Yes. I know I said "Charles.")

He then became irate and started calling them "Yankees." (It was definitely the first time Austin has ever been accused of being a Yankee.)

All in all, it will make for a good story when The Boy returns... but I didn't like it. I didn't like it one bit!

Except for Mr. Irish Republican, everyone they have come in contact with has been VERY, VERY nice.

4. He has taken several pictures from Melia's "Must Take a Picture of This" List. She's a genius. The Boy lives for structure, and he's marking things off that list... and we're going to have some good pictures.

5. He did not take a picture of inebriated Mr. Irish Republican. (I think that was wise.)

Last Date of the Year

It's not too late. Depending on how many children you have, you and/or your spouse can date them today, this afternoon, this evening, tomorrow morning... You get the idea.

And it's not a difficult date. It's an out-to-eat/talking date.

Time to talk about the last year (good AND bad).

Time to talk about the upcoming year.

Time to talk about dreams, fears, hopes and more.

One-on-one. No cell phones. No interruptions.

Mike and Josh are at Original Pancake House now. Just eating... and talking.

Roxie and I are headed to Brookwood around lunch. And we'll grab a bite... and talk.

If The Boy calls around 6:00 p.m. tonight (and he BETTER CALL), Mike and I will eat a bite... and talk... and listen. It will be an International Telephone Date.

Weekend Happenings

This has been an odd week. Not very restful, but we've definitely gotten some things accomplished. (Do NOT think that means my house is spic and span. I'm still working on that one.)

Tonight, Josh is going to see Mission Impossible with a friend. Mike and I are going to get the review from him and decide if we want to see it now or wait until it is on DVD.

Saturday is a stay-around-the-house day for me and Miss Roxie, I think. Josh and Mike are going deer hunting... and I hope Josh gets his first big buck this year.

We're spending New Year's Eve with our friends, Kerry and Nancy. It's a lovely tradition, and we'll spend a lot of time catching up, laughing and eating.

Sunday is going to be a wonderful way to start the new year. Attending church with family and friends on the first day of 2012 will be a very good thing.

And that is it for us. A very low-key weekend. Of course, I didn't bore you with the details of the undecorating of the house, OR the washing of the laundry, OR the buying of a new mattress, etc., etc. Those things are too mundane... even for A Simple Life.

I'll stop in for a few minutes tomorrow to share some of my 2012 Goals (NOT resolutions). I've got some "dandies!"

Mindless Monday will continue January 2, AND I'll introduce my January Paula Deen Recipe with you. I think I can actually make this without too much trouble. We shall see!

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Thursday, December 29, 2011

10 New Year's Activities and Traditions

Good Thursday morning!

Austin's Over-the-Pond Adventure - The Boy has landed. If you are wondering why I said he would arrive in London at 9:30 a.m. (Central Time), it is because I strictly went with the information Austin gave me.

"Austin, when will your plane land?"

"I don't know. I think it's a 14-hour... no, a 12-hour... maybe a 9-hour flight."

I picked the middle "answer."

Austin is a really smart guy, but some things are unimportant to him, and those things are not worth remembering.

For the record, Austin AND I were both happy it was Answer No. 3.

At this very moment in time, he is either sleeping in his room at the Hilton London Metropole OR taking one of SIX walking tours in and around his area. (The Ritz Hotel, Piccadilly, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall or Parliament Square.)

At 7:00 this evening, dinner will be served in the Palace Suite. (I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty cool to me.)

At 8:00 this evening, the Southerners will have a rehearsal in the Windsor Suite in the East Wing. (Uber-cool.)

And that will be The Boy's Thursday.

But in my mind, he's in Jacksonville... 82 minutes away... eating at the Cafe and playing X-Box with his buds.

Denial is my best friend.

The Gallery Pics are of Austin at the airport yesterday.

We're going to get straight to business today. Hold on. Here we go.

Wednesday Wisdom (on Thursday)

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine (Austin LOVES to read.)

10 New Year's Activities and Traditions

These ideas came straight from a link on The Dating Divas website.

1. New Year's Day Pancakes - Put the pancake batter in a plastic mustard or ketchup dispenser. (You see these at hot dog stands and you can buy them at Wal-Mart or Target.) It makes it much easier to shape the batter... 2-0-1-2. (I'm going to do this one, I think.)

2. Resolutions - Have each member of the family write their resolutions on slips of paper. I decorated a can a few years ago, and we put our resolutions in the can until next year when we pull them out to see how we did. I also display a list so we remember what we wrote.

3. Make a Fortune Tree - I make a trip to the Dollar Store and find some funny things to fit into a small bag that will hang on the Christmas Tree. I make up a little New Year's Day fortune to go with the items in the bag. Let everyone choose a bag and then read the fortunes.

I get things like bubble gum, umbrellas, Hawaiian punch mix, etc. Then I write a fortune...

"In the coming year, you will be bubbling over with great ideas and wisdom." (Bubble gum)

"You will find there might be some storms you will have to wade through, but you will come out shining." (Umbrella)

4. Scrapbook - Have everyone make a scrapbook page with their top memories from last year. This is a fun time to reflect on all of the things that happened over the year. We let them use photos or drawings, ticket stubs, art, etc. to make an individual page. These pages are saved in a New Year's Binder so we can look at them every year.

5. Cookie and Confetti Your Neighbors - When I was a teenager, we would shred newspaper by hand and throw handfuls of it into our neighbors' homes as soon as they opened the door. Now I am a little bit nicer. We keep the confetti outside and give our neighbors a plate of treats to celebrate the New Year.

6. Fondue and Finger Food - Celebrate the New Year with the same snack each and every year. The family will look forward to their annual Fondue and Finger Food tradition.

7. Midnight Snacks - Put some cookies and favorite candy into a paper bag and the kids get to eat them while everyone watches the ball drop in New York. We use these with our kids, but it would be fun at a grown-up party, too.

8. New Year's Video - This idea was inspired by Family Fun. Ask your kiddos some questions on video each and every year (the same questions).

I am lucky because...
If I had three wishes, I would wish for...
I'm a little afraid of...
I love it when Dad...
I love it when Mom...
It is so fun when we get to go...
I am a big helper when I...
I am really good at...
What is your favorite game, color, food, etc.?

9. New Year's Eve Meal - We go to a buffet every New Year's. Be sure to incorporate black-eyed peas in whatever meal plans you make!

10. Go Somewhere NEW - You can go to a new restaurant, museum, movie, etc. Anywhere you have never visited before.

Blog Linkage

1. Go to Nesting Place under My Blog List and scroll down to a post entitled "Friendship" dated December 27. There is a link in this post from "in-courage.me." Click on that link and read the post entitled "On Friendship." It is excellent.

2. Go to eighteen25 under My Blog List and scroll down to the post entitled "Christmas Card Books" dated December 28. This is such a cute, quick idea. I really liked it, so I assumed you would, too!

I'll be back tomorrow with Weekend Happenings and more of Austin's Over-the-Pond Adventure... and the Date. I know. I know. I told you I would have EVERYTHING on today's post, but it was just TOO, TOO much.

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cheerio, Good Chap!

Good Wednesday evening!

The Gallery Pics are from Grandmother's Christmas Celebration. There are so many, I decided to stretch it out a bit.

RANDOMNESS #1 - Mikie and I just walked in the door from dropping Austin off at the Atlanta Airport.

We walked out of the parking deck and saw his two best buds standing on the sidewalk in front of the terminal. We couldn't have planned it any better.

We all walked in, checked baggage (in under ten minutes) and walked to Security... and said good-bye.

We couldn't walk past the Security door, but we made sure Austin wasn't tackled to the ground... or strip searched... or tasered. They obviously could tell he was a good boy, because they let him through in record time.

He's in Chicago as I type this post. We've talked to him a couple of times. He enjoyed his first flight EVER. His plane for London leaves at 9:30, and he'll fly for about 12 hours.

If you've known me for a minute, you know sending my son "across the pond" has been emotionally-draining for me. However, Mikie said he was surprised at how calm and composed I was.

I'm just going to pretend he's in Jacksonville for the next eight days. That's the only way I'm going to continue to appear calm and composed.

I believe he is going to have a great adventure... and I hope I get a good souvenir.

NOTE - We'll be playing "Where in the World is The Boy" the next few days. I'll let you know what sights he sees and which Royals he hob-nobs with each and every day. (Because I know you're just as interested in his every move as I am... right?)

RANDOMNESS #2 - You may have guessed by now that Wednesday Wisdom, the Seasonal Tradition, Blog Linkage AND this week's Date will ALL be featured in tomorrow's post.

I am tired.

Have a lovely evening. I'll talk to you in the morning.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Delicious Hot Chocolate (Pioneer Woman Style)

Good Tuesday morning!

The Gallery Pics include more Christmas shots. Surprise!

RANDOMNESS #1 - Yesterday was a very good day. Our "Day After Christmas" Movie Pick was Sherlock Holmes. (I tried, Jennifer. I really did. We're still going to see your movie pick before school starts back... because I said so!)

I have to say, the second Sherlock Holmes was MUCH more easy for me to understand. The British accents weren't as thick... Robert Downey, Jr. didn't talk quite so fast... and the story was much easier to follow. All in all, the entire group said it was a much better movie than the first... and they all loved the first one!

We ate at Mugshots before heading to the theater, and it was superb! Best hamburgers ever! (We all agreed on that point, too.)

And guess what? I stepped out of my comfort zone and ordered a Peanut Butter Burger. That's all they put on it. Crunchy peanut butter, juicy hamburger and a sweet bun. Can I just say... Fabulous! It will not be the last time I order that burger... even though I'm trying the chicken salad the next time we go.

We had a very good time.

RANDOMNESS #2 - It may only be two days after Christmas, but we are in "London Mode" around here. Mikie, Austin and I are heading to Atlanta tomorrow morning to put The Boy on a jet plane headed for... Chicago. That's right. Five hours in Chicago.

And then off to London!

Mike's excited. Austin's excited. I'm getting there.

Today I will packing a 49 pound bag of clothes which will last The Boy eight days. (Anything over 50 pounds costs a little bit more! You probably already knew that. I'm the only person in the universe that still goes on road trips with a duffel, two outfits and quarters for the wash!)

I'll be letting you know how the trip progresses as we get daily reports (or snippets, as I like to call them). International phone calls are a little pricey, too, so if there isn't an emergency, he's to tell whoever answers the phone the following:

1. I am safe.

2. I am happy.

3. I went to (fill in the blank) today.

Melia is a chick after my own heart. She has given Austin a detailed "picture" list. Unlike the times I've given him such a list, he grinned and said he would take care of it! LOVE IT!

RANDOMNESS #3 - I'm heading to Edgar's Bakery today for a lunch date with my "forever" friends, Alesia and Celeste. (Kelley couldn't make it this year because of an anniversary trip. Go, Kelley!)

Sometimes I get to see these girls more than once a year, but not often. December 27 is always a good day for me. Time for me to catch up, reminisce and laugh... a lot.

And I get to eat something in a bread bowl.

Delicious Hot Chocolate (Pioneer Woman Style)

I am a lover of hot chocolate, but I must admit, most of the time, I'm a packet chick. I hopped over to Confessions of a Pioneer Woman and checked out her cooking section. She, too, loves the hot chocolate.

I'm going to be trying a couple of these in the next week or so. (Regular and MINT for me!)

You will need the following ingredients:

2 cups milk
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

1. To make the basic hot chocolate, combine milk with half-and-half in a small saucepan. Warm over medium-low heat, then stir in chocolate chips.

2. Stir until melted (though there will still be lovely particles of chocolate throughout.) If it's too chocolatey for you, splash in a little more milk. If it's not quite sweet enough for you, add 1 teaspoon sugar.

3. Serve in mugs with whipped cream.

VARIATIONS

Orange Hot Chocolate - Add 4 slices of orange rind as you warm the milk mixture. Add a splash of orange syrup if you have it, but it isn't necessary.

Raspberry Hot Chocolate - Add 3 tablespoons raspberry syrup to the hot chocolate. Drop a couple of raspberries into each cup.

Mint Hot Chocolate - Drop 1 to 2 miniature peppermint patties into each mug before adding hot chocolate. Stir to melt.

Garnish any and all variations with whipped cream or chocolate shavings.

I know what I'm doing tonight around 10:00 p.m.

Have a blustery Tuesday. It's windy in Alabama! I'll be back tomorrow with Wednesday Wisdom, some New Year's Eve and New Year's Day ideas, pictures, Randomness and a little more.

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning!

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mindless Monday

Good Monday morning!

The Gallery Pics will tell the tale!

Is it just me, or does the day after Christmas get here faster and faster each year?

SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO! SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO! - How many of you watched (and loved) the movie Julie and Julia? I know. Me, too.

Well, I'm going to try something similar in the year 2012.

No. I'm not going to get a gigantic cookbook and try every recipe in just a year. (Are you nuts? Have you even met me?)

It is a much more simple task I aim to complete.

My sister, Bev, gave me a Paula Deen Recipe Calendar yesterday. It's beautiful. My goal is to try the Recipe of the Month... and make my family eat it!

That's right. Every month highlights a new and exciting Paula Deen recipe I have never attempted.

I will reveal January's Recipe of the Month Monday, January 2, 2012.

Oh, and since this is my "goal," I'll be using my "rules." As long as I fix the dish within the month it is featured, it "counts." (In other words, get ready for a play-by-play on the new recipe the last day of every month!)

It should be fun! Right?

RANDOMNESS #1 - The Christmas Card Count stands at 61... which is pretty good. I know a lot of people who cut back this year, and NOT sending out Christmas cards is a great way to free up finances and time.

I did away with some things that gave me some free time BEFORE and AFTER Christmas. (I didn't put my three Cherished Teddie scenes up this year... Santa's Workshop (kitchen), Nativity Scene (living room) and Santa's Train (music room). I have over 100 boxed pieces, and taking them out and putting them back into their respective styrofoam/bubblewrap home takes a while. A long while.

There were also several large boxes I didn't even open this year. I don't even remember some of the things I "didn't put out."

And that's okay. It helped my feelings this year!

RANDOMNESS #2 - My inflatables will be put away today, and while I usually wait until the day after New Year's, I will begin slowly de-Christmastizing this week, I think.

But today... Well, today we are getting ready to use the RAVE movie tickets Santa left in our stockings as is our annual tradition.

We had planned on going to Lucia's or Joe's Italian for lunch, but after a quick call last week, that plan was crushed. They will be closed the Monday after Christmas. Heavy, heavy sigh.

However, the general consensus of The Faulkner Five and Melia... Mugshots. I haven't been to Mugshots yet. Austin and Roxie have declared it has the best hamburgers EVER, so the rest of us are anxious to go there today.

RANDOMNESS #3 - I also did not get 12 pictures of inflatables for The 12 Days of Inflatables this year. When I did spot a new or unique inflatable, I didn't have my camera... and when I was riding around with my camera in my lap, I didn't spot any new or unique inflatables.

It was a vicious cycle, I tell you.

Have a great Monday. After our lunch and movie, I will begin getting The Boy ready to go to Europe. He leaves Wednesday, you know. On an airplane. Going across "the pond." Without his family. One more heavy, heavy sigh.

I'll be back tomorrow with a recipe and more pics.

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Good Sunday evening!

I cannot believe another Christmas is almost "finished." You don't want to blink between Thanksgiving Night and Christmas Eve or you will most definitely miss something.

When I was a child, it was so easy to have the Christmas excitement 24/7. It came very naturally. At 50 years of age, the excitement can some times give way to Christmas stress... or sadness... or "I miss when the kids were little."

I worked very, very hard to try to remember to live in the moment this Christmas. Was every single day this season filled with excitement and squeals of delight? Uh, nope.

But I have some wonderful Christmas memories. Yes, I do.

1. Sitting arm-in-arm with Mikie at the Alabama Theater watching Home Alone, eating popcorn and sharing a Coke. (Roxie and friends didn't want to sit with us... and we were fine with that!)

2. Mikie buying a pre-lit tree for my living room. Decorating has never been easier.

3. Walking to the mailbox every single day to get "you know what!"

4. Wrapping presents ahead of time so I didn't have to stay up late Christmas Eve!

5. Sitting with my entire family at the Christmas Eve Service and singing Christmas carols together. Priceless!

6. Watching three year-old Matthew pass out gifts at Grandma's house. He was so excited and happy that everyone had a gift or two.

7. Holding Baby Lauren for very long periods of time and just soaking in all of her "new baby" goodness... and LOVING her "My First Christmas" outfit.

8. Eating Chinese Chicken Christmas Eve with The Faulkner Five and Melia. Lots of laughing and talking.

9. Watching 21 people get baptized at our church this morning... again sitting with the entire family. How wonderful to be baptized on such a special day.

10. Spending time with my side of the family this afternoon, and watching how excited the guys were with the cowboy boots Grandmother gave them for Christmas. There was a lot of heavy-steppin' in Trussville today as they tried to
"break the boots in."

I could go on and on (Christmas parties, Christmas teas, etc.), but it's only 5:51 p.m. and we're going to eat cereal for dinner... and watch Christmas Wipeout. (We taped it for just such a special occasion as this!)

I hope you made some wonderful Christmas memories these last few days.

I'll be back in the morning with Mindless Monday... lots and lots of pictures which will tell our weekend story.

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning!

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Eve!

Good Saturday evening!

Our day has consisted of spending time with Mikie's family... holding precious baby Lauren... watching uber-excited three year-old Matthew play Santa and pass out gifts (so, so cute)... attending our Christmas Eve Service at church with Melia's family...

And Mike's about to pick up our Chinese Take-Out Christmas Eve Feast before we settle in to watch one more Christmas movie.

Since we had a little time before eatin' time, we decided to exchange our sibling gifts. Everyone was happy, but none as happy as Melia and Roxie. Obviously pink Polo caps make chicks smile.

Have a wonderful night! Have a blessed day tomorrow! (As promised, I'll be back before Christmas Day fades into a memory with a pic or two and a short and sweet update.)

Take care, and I'll talk to you Sunday.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting and Chinese-Craving Belinda

Friday, December 23, 2011

Weekend Happenings

Good Friday morning!

I added one new (old) photo to the Gallery for your holiday enjoyment. So enjoy!

RANDOMNESS #1 - I have 57 Christmas Cards. I know it is highly unusual, but I will have two random posts this weekend. I cannot tell you when, but there will be a post some time during the day Saturday, and some time during the day Sunday.

In one of those two random posts, I will give you my "final BEFORE Christmas" Christmas Card count. Stay tuned.

RANDOMNESS #2 - I did "much" yesterday, but I still have "much" to do today.

1. Go to Trussville. Visit my Mom and drop off stocking stuffers for our Sunday Stocking Trade.

2. Shop at two stores in Trussville. Ever-so-quickly make my TWO purchases and get out of Trussville.

3. Go to my sister's house in Clay to pick up two items she helped me with. (She will meet me in the driveway and throw them at me because she has much to do, too!)

3. Go to Wal-Mart. Pick up pictures for calendar gifts and run (do not walk) out of Wal-Mart.

4. Make two neighborhood deliveries.

5. Go to grocery store and pick up 38 items I need for cooking the next two days.

6. Arrive home all happy and in the Christmas spirit because I am now officially FINISHED except for cooking and wrapping.

7. Cook and wrap.

8. Cook and wrap.

9. Cook and wrap.

10. Oh! Roxie and I are going to get our Christmas manicure today! I cannot wait!

11. You get the idea.

I only posted this so you would know, once again, my house isn't clean, all the stockings aren't hung, the food is raw, etc., etc.

Life is VERY normal at Faulkner Farms (circa 1842).

Weekend Happenings

We will be having Christmas with Mikie's family tomorrow. We will be attending the Candlelight Service at our church before going to our favorite Chinese restaurant to pick up our traditional Christmas Eve Chinese Take-Out Feast.

We will exchange "sibling" gifts and "Melia" gifts and "me and Mikie" gifts.

Santa will come.

Sunday we will have Christmas morning. We will go to our church for services. We will head to Mom's for Christmas with my family.

Busy, fun and time well spent!

Have a fabulous weekend. I hope you enjoy your Christmas celebrations very, very much.

Take care, and I'll talk to you Saturday AND Sunday.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting and Ever-So-Breathless Belinda

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14 (I love this verse. I love that this is what Christmas REALLY means.)

Thank you, God, for such a remarkable, undeserved, beautiful gift.

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stay-at-Home Dates

Good Thursday morning!

The Gallery Pics are a few leftovers from the past weekend.

RANDOMNESS #1 - The Pioneer Woman had a Christmas Special on The Food Network this past weekend... and I missed it!

But lucky you AND me... I checked the local listings, and they are showing it one more time TODAY at 11:00 a.m. As soon as I post, I am setting my DVR so I can watch later this evening.

I just wanted to make sure you were "in the know."

RANDOMNESS #2 - The Christmas Card Count stands at 56. Please remember I will accept Christmas Cards until June, 2012.

RANDOMNESS #3 - Okay. I'm feeling the "panic," so today will be the day when I finish everything. I just need to buy a little something here... and a little something there. Nothing major, but definitely necessary.

And when my head hits the pillow tonight, everything will be bought, wrapped and ready. Yeah... right!

That leaves the little business of a manicure with Miss Roxie tomorrow morning AND some cookin'.

And Michael Buble crooning Christmas tunes in the background. Ahhh. I am loving me some Michael Buble this Christmas season!

RANDOMNESS #4 - My visit to The Chocolate Biscuit with friends yesterday was fun. I haven't been to The Chocolate Biscuit in a while, so I was surprised at the changes. I think I remember a fireplace and mantle on one wall... and lots and lots of twinkly lights... and Christmas music playing while I sipped delicious hot tea.

The Chocolate Biscuit has become a busy, booming little eatery, and while I missed the twinkly lights, the food was excellent. I had Cornbread Salad and Pepper Soup for the first time ever... and I liked them both very much.

Hot Orange Tea was the drink of the day, and it was SO good.

And, of course, we finished our Salad Sampler Plates and ordered Chocolate Biscuits AND Chocolate Cobbler.

Thankfully, some things NEVER change. Excellent!

Oh... And the company was delightful! I love catching up with my chick friends during the holidays... laughing and listening. It is always time well spent.

RANDOMNESS #5 - (This is part-two of a re-post from December, 2009.)

JUST ANOTHER THOUGHT - Continuing with my JUST A THOUGHT segment from yesterday, I have a little Austin story to share.

When Roxie was a babe, I began teaching a Christ-Centered Traditions class at our church. It was one of my 68 PASSIONS at the time. I always made sure everyone in class knew my family DID NOT do everything we were going to be discussing. No family could. It would be impossible. But I did try everything I could try, and I adopted some of the traditions for the Faulkner Five.

It was in the midst of this "Tradition-Trying Frenzy" Austin came home from elementary school one day and said, "I made a 95 on my vocabulary test."

"Very good," I said. "Which word did you miss?"

"'Tradition,'" he said, looking out the window.

My mouth fell open. "What do you mean you missed 'tradition'?"

"I got it wrong. I didn't know what it meant. I've never heard the word before."

I pulled into a gas station parking lot. Trying to breathe evenly, I turned around in the seat so I could make and hold eye contact. "What do we do every year the day after Thanksgiving? Where do we go every 4th of July? What do we do when we get there? What do we eat every Christmas Eve for dinner? What do we stick all over your Daddy's truck every Valentine's Eve night? What flavor birthday cake do you have every year?" The questions kept coming.

"Wait! Wait! I know the answer to some of those questions. You're going too fast," he interrupted.

"Those are 'traditions.' Those are events and happenings and celebrations the Faulkner Five 'do' EVERY SINGLE YEAR without fail!"

"Well, if the question had been worded different(ly), I would have gotten that one right," he responded, and he settled back into his seat.

Fair enough. It wasn't my fault. The blame could be placed solely on his teacher... who knew me... and knew I taught a traditions class... and thought the whole thing was very, very funny.

And that, my friends, is the reason I will NOT ask Austin the question, "Not counting God, what is the most important thing in my life?" I'm truly afraid of what the answer might be.

Blog Linkage - Oh, the things I have to share with you today. Get busy. There are some things to read, but lots of stuff to see, too.

1. Go to www.funkyjunkinteriors.blogspot.com and scroll down to the post entitled "An all natural junk-filled 2011 Christmas reveal" dated December 5. I LOVE the stepladder tree. Very cute.

2. Go to www.sweetsomethingdesign.blogspot.com and scroll down to the post entitled "Christmas Tour 2011" dated December 14. They have the perfect Hot Chocolate Bar set up for me to use as a "go-by."

3. Go to www.eclecticallyvintage.com and scroll down to the post entitled "I'll be home for the Christmas Open House Tour" dated December 12. There are so many good pictures in this post, but I especially liked the ladder tree, the marshmallow wreath and the fish bowls. Cute AND inexpensive.

4. Click on Dating Divas under My Blog List and read the post entitled "Cheese Party" dated December 19. It shows you how to throw a Cheese Party. Fun... and delicious.

5. Go to www.andersonfamilycrew.blogspot.com and read the post entitled "6 kids in 1 picture" dated December 20. This chick had three LITTLE boys and one little girl... adopted a little girl from Ethiopia... found out she was pregnant DAYS after the little girl came home... and gave birth to a beautiful NEW little girl a few days ago. What a Christmas they are going to have!

Enjoy!

Stay-at-Home Dates

If you are like me, sometimes the thought of "going out" one more time during this busy season is more than you can bear.

Enjoy the FIVE FREE Stay-at-Home Dates listed below...

1. Have a movie marathon. Pick a theme (Christmas, movie series, etc.). Put on your pajamas, climb into the bed (with only one kiddo at a time, please), and enjoy your movie selection. Popcorn and beverages are a must!

2. Ski on your Wii. Again, make sure this is one-on-one time.

3. Decorate your child's bedroom door for the holidays. You can cover the entire door with wrapping paper, or spend some time making holiday pictures. (Painting on aluminum foil makes festive pictures and it doesn't take hours. It dries quickly, too.)

4. Make place cards for your family’s holiday meal. Have a plan and the craft supplies ready. This one-on-one time is not only fun, but it will be useful, too.

5. Bake your favorite cookie. That's right. More baking. But this time, fill a few plates with warm cookies, hop in the car and ding-dong ditch some of your child's best friends.

Have a tremendous Thursday. Enjoy the last few days of this Christmas season. (Don't forget to BREATHE!) I'll be back tomorrow with Weekend Happenings (which will probably be very similar to YOUR Weekend Happenings).

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Polar Express Party

Good Wednesday morning!

My new FAVORITE THING is in the Gallery this morning! Everyone must RUN (not walk) to Wal-Mart and buy one of their very own TODAY (not tomorrow).

RANDOMNESS #1 - And the cards and letters just keep pouring in... Well, it's not actually a "pour." More of a steady "trickle," but I like it! I like it a lot.

My official Christmas Card Count... 53!

Now that's what I'm talking about!

RANDOMNESS #2 - My picture-of-the-day blog, 50 is Nifty, will be current by the time my head hits the pillow tonight. Take a look tomorrow if you get a chance.

RANDOMNESS #3 - Tis the season for Christmas Tea! I'm having some Chocolate Biscuit goodness with friends today. I'm really looking forward to catching up, laughing and visiting with these guys. Rain or not!

RANDOMNESS #4 - Christmas lights and unique inflatables are not as plentiful this year, but I'm still determined to have all 12 Days of Inflatables up and running by this Friday.

I'm a nut with a mission, I tell you!

RANDOMNESS #5 - It's time for a Blast From the Past. I wrote this post in December of 2009. (It's a two-parter, so I'll share the rest tomorrow morning!)

JUST A THOUGHT - Do you ever listen to the John Croyle commercials... you know, from the Big Oak Ranch? They have had a commercial during this holiday season that really made me think. I'll have to paraphrase a little bit. Mr. Croyle asks the question, "What do your kids see as the most important thing in your life?"

Then he tells a story of a little boy who was asked that question about his Dad, and he answered, "My Mom. My Daddy loves my Mom." He then goes on to say what a good job that Daddy has done showing his little boy the priorities of life... God, Family and then Others. When this set of priorities is out of order, so are our lives.

Well, I did a gutsy thing. I asked Josh.

"Not counting God, what do you see as the most important thing in my life?" He looked like a deer caught in headlights.

"Is this a trick question?"

"No. It is a simple question."

"Will I be punished if I answer wrong?"

"No. But, you will be punished if you don't answer SOON!"

He grinned and said, "Family."

"Did I get it right?" he asked, smirking.

"You did okay," I responded, breathing a sigh of relief. Now it was Roxie's turn.

"Not counting God, what do you see as the most important thing in my life?"

"Why do you want to know?" she countered.

"It's just a question. Answer, please."

"Is there more than one right answer?"

"I don't think you can get this wrong. It's just your opinion," I replied, starting to get very impatient.

"Will you be mad if I answer it wrong?"

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THESE KIDS?

"Okay. Okay. The answer is 'family.' Am I right?" Roxie asked with a smirk on her face, too!

I slipped her a $5 bill and told her not to tell her brother!

You may be asking, "Are you going to ask Austin when he gets home?" I don't think so. Right now, I'm pretty happy with the two out of three answers I received. I don't think I want to mess it up. He's liable to say "chocolate chip cookie dough," or "going to the movies," or something else upsetting. Too risky. Too, too risky!

(And I'll tell you a little story about why I KNOW it is too risky in tomorrow's post!)

Wednesday Wisdom

"Off to one side sits a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him... and so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds." Max Lucado

I don't know about you, but I want to be a shepherd this year!

Polar Express Party

Okay. I'm "borrowing" another great idea from a great blog for a great party for the kiddos this year (or next)... and I found it on Pinterest!

Go to www.thegalagals.com and scroll down to the post entitled "Polar Express Party." (Okay. While you are there, you might as well look at all the other fantastic Christmas party ideas. These girls know how to throw a party!)

Make it your own, but I know you're going to like the Snack Train, the Railroad Track Paths and the "stations."

If I thought Austin, Josh and Roxie would enjoy such a thing, I would throw a Polar Express Party tomorrow... but, alas, it is too late for me!

Have a great Wednesday. I'm not doing the Christmas countdown. I know it causes me stress, and I assume it causes others a little discomfort, too. I will say, "I hope you accomplish much!"

I'll be back tomorrow with a lot of Blog Linkage, a Date and some more pics and Randomness.

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Different Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

Good Tuesday morning!

Christmas MINUTE-TO-WIN-IT pics are in the Gallery today. Remember... Thursday I'll post the website where these great ideas came from... and more, more, more.

RANDOMNESS #1 - As of this very second, I have 47 Christmas cards hanging from three door frames in my house. That's a good number, and I'm breathing much more easily now. I'm not calling and harassing my friends and family any longer. The blog and Facebook threats seem to be working nicely.

Thank goodness. Those calls were going to take up a lot of my Christmas-prep time!

RANDOMNESS #2 - Well, it is December 20. The big 2-0! I'm not finished shopping yet, but for some reason panic hasn't taken over my body and mind. I think I'll do better when the panic comes.

Denial is pleasant, but it doesn't get the job done.

RANDOMNESS #3 - Pastor Kevin preached a sermon entitled "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year?" this past Sunday. (Did you see the question mark at the end of the title?)

He talked about all of the people hurting in the world... in our country... in our town... in our church. And he is right. There is a lot of hurt out there... and to be honest, I think the season of Christmas and the pressure everyone puts on themselves to have a "perfect" holiday adds to the hurt of so many.

A lot of times on A Simple Life, I know it appears nothing is ever wrong at Faulkner Farms (circa 1842), but, of course, that is not the case.

In our little family alone, we are dealing with illnesses, heartbreak, depression and hormones (some of us have too many, and some of us not enough)... you get the idea. We're very normal.

The year 2012 is a big unknown, and while I used to look forward to a new year, the older I've gotten, I tend to just hold on and try to live ONE DAY AT A TIME! Such a hard lesson for me.

I do not pretend to know what everyone is going through, but I know Someone who does. Someone who cares. Someone you can talk to day or night.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'" Lamentations 3:22-24

Today is Tuesday, December 20, 2011, and I have a gift from God this morning. His compassions NEVER fail, and they are new every morning!

Thank goodness!

A Different Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

I have posted a Chicken Pot Pie recipe on the blog before, but I've been using this recipe for a few months now, and I like it... my family likes it... and a few friends have enjoyed it.

I copied this from the Aegis Women's Club Recipe Book, and this particular recipe was submitted by a girl named Aimee Woods.

You will need the following:

2 cans Cream of Potato soup
1 can Veg-All (drained)
2 cans chicken (drained)
1/2 cup milk
Pepper to taste
Refrigerated pie crusts
1 egg (beaten)

1. Combine the first five ingredients.

2. Place one pie crust in the bottom of a 9" pie plate. Fill with mixture.

3. Top with remaining crust and brush with beaten egg. (I either pinch the edge of the crust or I use a fork. It depends on my mood!)

4. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Not only is it delicious, but it's pretty, too. (Martha would be so pleased!)

Have a lovely Tuesday. I know for some (most) it will be busy... and hectic and a little stressful. Try to make some time to sit down and sip some hot chocolate in front of the tree you worked so hard to decorate... listen to the REAL story of Christmas through old Christmas carols from a favorite CD... call an old friend you haven't talked to in awhile and catch up... You get the idea.

And I'll try to do the same.

I'll be back tomorrow with Wednesday Wisdom, a Seasonal Tradition OR Party (I haven't decided which yet), Randomness and pics of my favorite new thing this holiday season. (Yes. I have a favorite new THING!)

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting and NOT Stress-Free Belinda

P.S. Feel free to leave comments on Facebook OR at mfaulkner1306@charter.net.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mindless Monday

Good Monday morning!

The Gallery Pics are from the 13th Annual Christmas Tea I hosted at Townhouse Tea Shoppe in Mt. Laurel, AND my MamMa's Christmas Celebration at Palisades in Oneonta. Both of these uber-Christmasy events took place on the same day, so Saturday I was really "feelin' it!"

RANDOMNESS #1 - I have exactly 40 Christmas Cards. And that is good. Don't get me wrong. That is very good.

It just ain't good enough!

I had a sweet friend inquire about my Christmas card count on Facebook this weekend. I assumed the friend was asking out of concern for me. As it turns out, her husband wants to have a Christmas Card "Receiving" Contest.

Let me just say... "It's on, Fella! Eat my Christmas Card dust!"

I don't think anyone will ever accuse me of NOT celebrating Christmas for the right reasons!

P.S. My last little batch of Christmas cards will be mailed TODAY. If you haven't received your card yet, it is coming!

RANDOMNESS #2 - As mentioned above, we had our 13th Annual Christmas Tea at a lovely little tearoom in Mt. Laurel. The food was very good. The desserts were delicious. And the tea... Well, Gingerbread Tea and Christmas Eve Tea have never tasted so good.

It seems something always happens which helps us remember that specific tea. We've had a Tornado Tea... a Chipped China Tea... a Fancy High Tea. You get the idea.

We've never been to the same tearoom twice. We always try something new.

This is what I think we'll always remember about the Lucky No. 13 Tea...

1. I had accidentally asked for a reservation for six, but we had seven. (I didn't count myself.) This would usually not be a big deal, but adding a chair and a place setting was not an easy, breezy task.

2. I had asked this particular tearoom if they served high tea. They said, "Yes." When having high tea, you have to order it before the day of the actual tea. I was asking out of curiosity. They thought I was ordering six "high teas."

3. Not only did they have to set another place. They had to re-set the entire table for "lunch menu" items instead of "high tea" items. In layman's terms, that means bigger plate and different fork.

4. One of our chicks somehow mentioned we might get a little "louder" as our tea time progressed... And we were told to try to keep it down so the other patrons would be able to hear the music. I think she was kidding, but since we weren't sure, we were on our very best behavior.

5. My cell phone started ringing at this inopportune moment, and because I have a new funky Jamaican ring tone set at VERY LOUD, the establishment took my phone away from me.

JUST KIDDING! JUST KIDDING!

They even brought us FREE Chocolate Chip Scones with REAL whipped butter. It was divine!

After we got settled with the correct place setting, everything went very, very well. Delicious food, lovely tea, good conversation, sweet friends... and a piece of Peppermint Cake TO DIE FOR!

If you ever get an opportunity to go down Highway 280 for a little while, I suggest you make a reservation and have a little tea at Townhouse Tea Shoppe. (Try the chocolate chip scone AND the cranberry chicken. Just sayin'.)

RANDOMNESS #3 - Saturday evening, our family went to a nice Lodge in Palisades Park, located in Oneonta. We have celebrated at the Park for many years now. Palisades Park also has an awesome light display, so we get to have fun with our family AND do a little Christmas light lookin'.

We had a great time. The food was yummy. The great-grandchildren exchanged gifts. And then we took a little time to play Christmas MINUTE-TO-WIN-IT! (Thank you, Pinterest!)

It was a lot of fun, and since we only played five games, I have several more NEW games we can play next year.

I'm going to share the website on Blog Linkage this Thursday, so you can use some of these great ideas at your next Christmas gathering.

All ages can play and enjoy.

Have a very merry Monday! (I think I've said that before, haven't I?) I hope you accomplish much today. I hope this day is stress-free for you and yours. (I hope this day is stress-free for me and mine, too!)

I'll be back tomorrow with an easy-breezy recipe, more pics and Randomness. You know. A typical Tuesday.

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Friday, December 16, 2011

Weekend Happenings

Good Friday morning!

The Gallery Pics are of the Dirty Santa gifts Mikie and I snagged at his Christmas office party last night. I was pleased with the end result!

RANDOMNESS #1 - The Christmas Card Count is now at 29. Yep! Almost 30. I love going to the mailbox every day. It's one of my high points... which is kind of sad.

RANDOMNESS #2 - I told you I would share the story of The Faulkner Five Christmas Card today, but I still have a few more to mail. I'll send those out today, and tell you the little story Monday. (A little Christmas something to look forward to!)

RANDOMNESS #3 - I always enjoy Mike's office party. He works with some of the nicest people I've ever met, and it is just an easy, relaxed, festive gathering.

The food was great. I found a way to eat asparagus. It was served wrapped in a thin, crispy pastry dough and there was a tiny piece of cheese inside the wrapping, too. Then it was seasoned and baked. To top it off, I dipped it in a "barbecue/ranch" sauce before popping it into my mouth.

Hello? Why doesn't everyone cook asparagus this way?

The other food was equally delicious. I had a little vegi sandwich on a soft bun with an herb/mayo spread. Can you say, "Slap on a little more of that mayo, please?"

Mikie, being the carnivore of our pair, feasted on tenderloin. Food-wise, the evening was a total success.

And then we played Dirty Santa. Traditionally, Mike and I walk out with two gifts I like... which is fine. This year, I (I mean "we") did it again!

I stole a Mini-Doughnut Maker from a lovely woman named Karen. Poor Karen had a very unique skill of picking out the best gift from the gift pile EVERY SINGLE TIME. She must have had nine or ten gifts stolen. Normally I try NOT to steal, but I was "in the mood" for some reason, and when I saw the Mini-Doughnut Maker I had to have it for myself. (I know. So selfish, right? So un-Enchanting-Belinda-like.)

Mike ended up stealing a Starbucks basket with coffee, tea, hot chocolate AND two Christmas mugs. I was very happy with that little present, also.

All in all, an excellent night. (I have to find some time today to make mini-doughnuts in my new Mini-Doughnut Maker. Laundry may have to take a backseat because I want to make at least four or five dozen for kids to munch on as they come in and out, out and in during the weekend.)

Weekend Happenings

While last weekend was a little lacking in the "IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS" DEPARTMENT, this weekend is shaping up nicely!

Friday night is officially "friend" night for the Faulkner kiddos, and they will be here, there and everywhere spending quality time with their friends.

Mikie and I may have a little time to ourselves to sip hot chocolate beside the Christmas tree and watch a Christmas movie. (Who are we kidding? Kids will most likely be in and out, out and in all night... and that will be just fine. The more, the merrier!)

Saturday is a big day for me. I'm hosting the 13th Christmas Tea at Townhouse Tea Shoppe in Mt. Laurel. There were originally ten chicks who started this journey with me 13 years ago, and I'm pleased to say seven of us will be in attendance. (That's pretty good, I think.) I always look forward to this one afternoon during the Christmas season. It's one of the traditions I enjoy most. (I will take approximately 250,000 pictures here.)

Saturday night is my MamMa's Christmas Celebration in Oneonta. As of this moment, we are planning to play "Christmas MINUTE-TO-WIN-IT" with the cousins. Thank you, Pinterest, for this great idea!

Roxie is fixing a dessert for our Palisades Party, and right now it looks like it is going to be a giant Snowman Cupcake Cake. (If Josh will make my contribution of White Chicken Chili, I might be able to sit around Saturday afternoon eating bon-bons... or not!)

(You guessed it. Another 500,000 photos or so will be snapped during this event.)

After church on Sunday, I'm hoping the kids will spend some quality time together shopping for Christmas gifts for their parental units. (Mikie and I taped lists to their bedroom doors... in October.)

Actually, Sunday is another "up in the air" day. I have learned to just hold on and TRY to go with the flow.

Have a fabulous Friday. I hope your weekend is festive, fun and fantastic. Take a moment to breathe and enjoy all things Christmas!

I'll be back next week with Mindless Monday (and I should have at least 750,000 pictures). That's just a rough estimate.

Remember, keep those Christmas Cards comin'.

Take care, and I'll talk to you Monday morning.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Winter Wonderland Date

Good Thursday morning!

The Gallery Pics never happened yesterday... because I had "server problems." I've been notified the problem has been solved, so maybe today will be a better picture day. It couldn't be any worse!

RANDOMNESS #1 - The Christmas Card total has reached 21. I will be calling the following people today... Tonya, Dawn, Debbie, etc., etc. The list goes on and on. I have 79 calls to make, so don't call me... I'll call you!

RANDOMNESS #2 - I finally found some new inflatables to add to the 12 Days of Inflatables. No. 6 has been added to the sidebar today!

RANDOMNESS #3 - The Boy will be leaving for London, England in less than two weeks! Breathe... breathe. We have a lot to do, but I think we can get it all together. He is very, very excited. And once he returns to the good ol' USA, I'm sure I'll be very excited, too!

RANDOMNESS #4 - The Mouse Story - I first shared this particular "woodland creature" story in December of 2008. Since I haven't had a run in with an animal in a while, I thought I'd re-share!

I told you yesterday I had a little mouse story to share. I guess it's my own version of Despereaux... but with a very sad ending.

Last Tuesday night, we had a little visitor. A cute, tiny little mouse was found wandering upstairs in the kids' bedrooms. Mike, Austin, Joshua and Roxie tried to catch, chase, extricate the mouse from the house, but to no avail.

Let me say in the seven years we've lived in this house, we have only had one other tiny visitor. We live next to a wooded lot, and sometimes when the weather changes, they try to come in for warmth or dryness or both. However, we also have several cats in our neighborhood, so there has never been a mouse or chipmunk problem in our home.

Surprisingly, I was not freaked out by our little guest. Mike put one trap in the kitchen, and I planned on going to the store the next day to buy the traps that don't hurt the little creatures, but keep them contained so you can put them back into the woods from whence they came.

All day long, I worked around house, but little Despereaux didn't make an appearance. I even thought he might have ventured outside again.

I wasn't really thinking about little Despereaux. I was making supper, setting the table, getting everything ready for the dinner time rush. I had gathered the household trash earlier and set it by the door. December is Roxie's month to take the trash out, and I called her to finish her chore. Beside the trash bag was a large black trash bag, but instead of trash it held 15 to 20 of Roxie's outfits to be taken to a friend with little girls. Not wanting Roxie to take out BOTH trash bags, I walked over to the door, picked up the clothes bag and moved it to a different area of the house. When I walked over to pick up the clothes bag, I stepped on the corner of the trash bag. I heard a crunch, but because I had been cooking all day, I assumed it was an egg shell in the bottom of the trash bag.

Roxie came and scooped up the bag to take outside to the garbage can... and screamed. There underneath the bag was Despereaux. We both jumped back expecting him to scamper, but he just lay there very still. Austin and Josh came running to see what the commotion was about. Josh was the first to declare him dead. Austin was the first to declare him flatter than a pancake. "He's been crushed," he said.

"How?" Roxie asked. All three of them were eye level with the pancake of a mouse now.

"Was the trash bag heavy?" one of the boys asked Roxie.

"No, it was really light," she replied.

"Well, this doesn't make sense," one of them logically stated.

Unfortunately, I knew exactly what had happened. It was the parking lot bird all over again. Me and my mammoth feet had crushed yet another woodland creature... except this one had not survived. I told the guys what had happened.

"You stomped it to death!" Roxie accused.

"No. Stomping would mean I had done it on purpose," I explained. "I simply stepped on something it was hiding under. It was an accident, pure and simple."

"Well, it sure looks like you stomped it," one of the guys noted as Austin disposed of the little guy.

"How much do you weigh anyway?" was Roxie's next question.

"That's irrelevant. We should just be thankful he died quickly." I wish I could have said painlessly, too, but what are the odds of a fully grown woman crushing you and it not hurting... at least a little bit.

Despereaux continues to be a topic of conversation at our home... and at church... and at family gatherings this Christmas season. I try to act like it doesn't matter, but I've got to tell you it was not one of my finer moments.

Needless to say, we will NOT be reading The Night Before Christmas in our home this season. It is just too painful and fresh... "Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse." Especially, it would seem, a little mouse named Despereaux Faulkner. The End... (literally).

Blog Linkage - Take a few minutes to breathe and read. You know you need to relax... because someone just posted on Facebook, "ONLY 10 MORE DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS." Breathe... breathe.

1. Go to www.kellehampton.com and scroll down to the post entitled "Feeling It" dated December 12. I just like what she has to say and thought you might, too.

2. Click on Confessions of a Pioneer Woman under My Blog List. Read the post entitled "Food From My Frontier" dated December 14. Ree has a new cookbook coming out in the Spring. I have her first cookbook, and I've enjoyed using it very much. I cannot wait for the new one.

3. Click on A Little Bit of Me under My Blog List. Scroll down to the post entitled "the holidays" dated December 13. This reminded me SO much of when Austin and Josh were little guys. Loved it.

4. Click on Nesting Place under My Blog List. The FIRST thing you will see is the post entitled "2011 Christmas Tour of Homes." Click on all the hundreds (maybe thousands by now) of links to see how others decorate their homes for Christmas. So much fun.

This could take awhile. You better get some hot chocolate to sip while you peruse these links.

Winter Wonderland Date

I know I've used McWane Center as a "date" in the past, but this is new... and exciting... and Christmasy. So I'm going to use it one more time!

Snow is in the forecast at McWane Science Center this year with the Winter Wonderland Exhibit. This magical holiday experience gives families a chance to learn about the science of the season together as they play in the snow, go ice fishing and watch toy trains zip around the tracks.

Winter Wonderland offers something for everyone in the family to enjoy together. Inside the snow room, children can make snow angels, build snow castles and more. Children can also catch fish through the ice in the ice fishing area.

Guests can even sled down the giant slide between the third and second floors in the museum or try the zip line.

Families also have a chance to see toy trains of every shape and size zipping around the tracks in the Magic of Model Trains area. This year children will be able to become conductors at one of the new stations, and see several new additions to the train sets.

Also, you can call ahead to get the IMAX movie schedule. They are showing Santa vs. the Snowman in 3D. (I've never seen it, but it sounds pretty good!)

NOTE - I'm not saying we never get snow in Alabama, but we rarely get the white stuff before Christmas... and Christmas is when you want the SNOW!

Spend a little one-on-one time with a daughter OR son, and enjoy the snow, sledding, ice fishing and trains galore.

Have a most wonderful Thursday. I'll be back tomorrow (server willing) with Weekend Happenings, Randomness and a photo or two.

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Which One is My Gift?

Good Wednesday morning!

I have a couple of Gallery Pics left over from Monday. Oh, and I'll be updating 50 is Nifty this afternoon, so there will be a few new pics on that blog, too.

RANDOMNESS #1 - The Official Christmas Card Count now stands at 19. Now, that's what I'm talking about! I even had someone walk up to Mikie at the basketball game and hand deliver their card.

"You're 'card begging' again, aren't you?" he asked, as he handed me the card.

"No. I'm 'card reminding.' There's a big difference. I don't start 'card begging' until the week before Christmas. And TWO DAYS before Christmas, I start 'card badgering.' How long have you been married to me?"

It never ceases to amaze me how little Mikie really KNOWS me. (Well, I think he does KNOW me, but he chooses to block it out. And that, my friends, is the secret to a happy marriage!)

RANDOMNESS #2 - I've received a few questions about our Family Christmas Card this year. I will be answering those questions on A Simple Life FRIDAY MORNING.

Wednesday Wisdom - I love these three quotes. Good reminders...

"Keeping Christmas is good, but sharing it with others is even better." Anonymous

"Let us approach Christmas with an expectant hush, rather than a last-minute rush." Anonymous (Excellent, excellent advice.)

"The way you spend Christmas is far more important than how much." Henry David Thoreau (Amen!)

Which One is My Gift?

Okay. Today's tradition is also Blog Linkage. I was gathering Thursday's Linkage and came across this post. It was too good not to share, but to read about this family's other traditions (which are also very, very good), you'll need to go to www.andersonfamilycrew.blogspot.com and read the post entitled "Teacher Gifts and Christmas Traditions." Lots of good ideas in this one post today.

Tradition #1:

Each little person gets their own wrapping paper... none of the gifts are marked. In order to know which packages are their gifts, they have to find a tiny piece of wrapping paper in the bottom of their stocking and match it with the wrapped gifts.

I think this is brilliant... and fun... and easy.

Remember. Go to her website (immediately) for some other very good traditions.

Have a wacky, wonderful Wednesday. I'll be back tomorrow with more Blog Linkage, a Date, Randomness and hopefully, more inflatable pictures. I'm cruising the streets of our fair city after church tonight in search of MORE inflatables.

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Crockpot Caramel Apple Crumble

Good Tuesday morning!

The Gallery Pics are from Josh's Senior Class Christmas Program. It's an annual tradition around here, and it is pretty hilarious. While the choir and band perform beautiful Christmas music at the beginning and end of the assembly, there are several "acts" in the middle which include Senior guys trying their best to be graceful... or limber... or just plain cool by performing ballet, jazz and modern dance numbers. That's where the "hilarious" happens!

At the end of the program, the Seniors break into 12 different giant groups and sing On the First Day of Christmas. It's tradition, and I like that. I like that a lot.

RANDOMNESS #1 - Mikie and I took some chicks to The Alabama Theater last night to watch Home Alone. There is something magical about The Alabama Theater. It is the MOST interactive movie theater I've ever attended... and I've attended a few.

Mike and I have seen Home Alone at least 100 times (no exaggeration), and yet it is "laugh out loud" funny once again when we are sitting in that beautiful setting.

It was a very Christmasy evening!

RANDOMNESS #2 - I have started calling people asking for my Christmas card. (Sorry, LeAnna.) And while I publicly apologize to LeAnna, please know I will be calling one or two of you tonight inquiring about your Christmas card progress.

I obviously cannot help myself.

RANDOMNESS #3 - "Where are all of the inflatable pictures?" I know. Has anyone else noticed there aren't as many inflatables this Christmas season? I'm beginning to get worried.

I have seen a few, but they are the "norm," and we all know, I'm not looking for the "norm."

RANDOMNESS #4 - I've been a little apprehensive to say this since the "Boot Fiasco of 2011," but I'm really interested in wearing some scarves this Winter.

That being said, I'm also terrified I will "do it wrong."

I'll probably be posting Scarf Rules in the near future... and hopefully, a picture of me wearing a scarf... correctly.

RANDOMNESS #5 - I have 472 items on my "To Do List." Please tell me I'm not the only one a little behind this season.

(Every time someone says, "Only 13 days until Christmas," I start having trouble breathing. And then I feel the need to take a nap to get away from the panicky, not-breathing-too-good feeling. And when I wake up, it is "Only 12 days until Christmas.")

RANDOMNESS #6 - I have a goal for today. When everyone comes home this evening, I want EVERYTHING to be clean and twinkly and good-smellin' and lovely... and all 472 items marked off my "To Do List."

Does anyone have the name of someone who will come to my home and actually accomplish those things?

That would be lovely! Thank you very much.

Crockpot Caramel Apple Crumble

Okay. So The Boy is back in town, and I'm going to try this new recipe since he likes "fruit" desserts. I'll let you know if it is a hit!

You will need the following:

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 large apples (cut into chunks)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

You will also need the following for the topping:

2/3 cup oats
2/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 to 4 tablespoons softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Toss apple chunks with salt and cinnamon.

2. In the bottom of your crockpot, mix brown and granulated sugars, then spread evenly to cover.

3. Layer apples on top, keeping them in a single layer as much as possible, then adding the rest to the top.

4. Mix the crumble topping together in a bowl using your fingers to distribute the butter evenly and thoroughly.

5. Sprinkle it over the top of the apples.

6. Cook apples on low for 4 hours, or high for 2 hours.

7. Turn off heat, unplug and let sit covered for 1 hour. (During this time, the caramel will thicken a bit more.)

8. Serve with vanilla ice cream... But I bet you already knew that, didn't you?

Have a terrific Tuesday. I will try to do the same. I'll be back tomorrow with Wednesday Wisdom, a Seasonal Tradition, Randomness and more pics.

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mindless Monday

Good Monday morning!

The Gallery is full this morning... but you've seen all the pictures before. Except for my daily pictures for 50 is Nifty, I didn't have anything to photograph this past weekend. Nothing! NADA!

This was quite possibly the MOST un-Christmasy weekend I've ever had... including a couple of weekends last July!

And I did not handle it well. No, sir. I... did... not!

You'll be happy to know, the rest of The Faulkner Five had a very good weekend, coming and going, going and coming. I fixed meals here and there. We had a couple of opportunities for a Faulkner Family Late Night Christmas movie, BUT because of upcoming finals and works schedules, it never happened.

I sound bitter, don't I? That's okay. It's good for you to know one of my three faults. (I tend to get bitter easily. I also tend to stay bitter a very, very long time... which is my second fault.)

But this week... This week is packed full of Christmas goodness. I'm going to try to get over my "bitter" self and enjoy every single moment.

All that to say... I'll have new pictures in the Gallery first thing in the morning.

RANDOMNESS #1 - I have 11 Christmas cards. Today is December 12. I am SO behind. Or should I say, "YOU are so behind!"

RANDOMNESS #2 - I'm going to share two more Neiman-Marcus gifts today. You'll be glad to know, they get more and more affordable as the countdown continues.

7. Tom Burr Ping-Pong Table
Price - $45,000

This table might not seem extraordinary at first glance, but it would certainly be your pride once you used it. Made out of high-grade black rubber, this table is shaped sharply at the edges, and has nothing too flashy to boast of, except for the opaque net in between. The benefits, as Tom Burr says, “more bounce for your buck,” relates to the superior experience of playing the sport of ping-pong on this table. With each sale, $2,500 will go to the charitable institution called Big Brothers/Big Sisters, who work in the area of children’s welfare.

NOTE - I've got to say, if I spent $45,000 on a ping-pong table, someone in my family would have to be playing ping-pong every day, all day long for the rest of my life. So I would know I had gotten my money's worth, you see.

8. Trip to Stone Barns Farm
Price - $9,500

Twenty-five miles from Manhattan lay the Pocantico Hills. This is where the Stone Barns Farm lies. For a group of six guests, the trip to the farm will prove to be a hands-on experience of the American country life, and most importantly, a glimpse into how one can depend on vegetation and poultry farming for good quality food.

Farmer Jack Algiere will be training the guests to create their own home gardens followed by multi-course meals and cooking methods by Chef Adam Kaye. The proceeds from the sale of its tour package will go toward the charitable institution of Stone Barns Center, meant for the upkeep of the particular area.

NOTE - I'm not going to spend almost $10,000 to garden all day, and then cook my own meals. Not gonna happen. If you were thinking, "The Enchanting Belinda would LOVE this as a gift," think again.

RANDOMNESS #3 - I didn't tell y'all everything that happened the night I spoke at our church a couple of weeks ago. And there was a reason. What I'm about to tell you will let you know about a side of me I have kept to myself... up until now.

Because I was representing the "fall" season of life, I didn't wear a new Christmas outfit to the event... even though it was definitely a Christmas event.

Instead I wore a burnt orange sweater with a dark brown camisole and a print skirt with a myriad of fall colors splashed all over it. My only problem with the outfit had to do with footwear.

I have pretty brown pumps that go with the outfit, but since no one wears hose these days (even in the winter), I had to decide whether the outfit needed boots OR tights. It wasn't a "tights" kind of outfit, so I opted for a new pair of boots. Suede boots. Brown suede boots. I tried them on. They felt marvelous. I bought them!

I left for the event before Roxie came home from volleyball practice that particular day. I thought I looked pretty spiffy in my autumnal outfit and my brand spankin' new brown suede boots. I walked with confidence to the podium. I gave my talk knowing I looked ultra-fine. And I left the event with warm feet AND calves because of the new boots.

I walked into our home, and I was immediately met by Roxie at the door.

"How did it go?" she asked. And with one quick glance up and down, she didn't give me time to answer the first question before the second question came out of her mouth.

"Tell me you did NOT wear those boots with that outfit!"

"Well, yes, I did. I wouldn't have changed shoes in the car on the way home. I thought you would like them. Look. Feel them. They are suede! So hip!"

"Do not use the word 'hip,' and I am NOT believing you wore those boots." The only thing MORE dramatic than Roxie would be me... Roxie's Mama.

"Why? What is wrong with them?" I was beginning to think I had gone color blind and maybe the boots were gray suede which would explain why Roxie was getting SO upset.

"You do not wear flat boots with a long skirt. You only wear flat boots with a shorter skirt and tights. You should have boots with at least a two-inch heel with that outfit."

"Well, I didn't want to trip in front of everyone, so I opted for the flat instead of the heel. These are fine. No one but you would ever notice that little detail."

"No, ma'am. Everyone noticed it. You broke a 'boot rule.' Promise me you will only wear those boots with a short sweater dress OR skinny jeans."

"Roxie. I am not wearing a short sweater dress. Those things are tight in the wrong places. And if I'm wearing skinny jeans, it is just because I ate too much the day before and my regular jeans are unbelievably uncomfortable. And I will NOT tuck my uncomfortable regular jeans inside boots... because then my boots would be too full."

"All I know is you cannot wear those boots again with the clothes you own. You look like an elf."

And with that, she hugged me and headed to bed.

Roxie is good, but I was sure she was exaggerating... until I headed to Wal-Mart the next day, the mall that weekend and church on Sunday. Her "boot rules" were exactly right.

I did look like an elf...

In front of over 500 women...

Who probably already knew the "boot rules."

And it normally would have bothered me a great deal except for how warm and cozy my feet and calves were that night.

And that confirms any doubt I might have had about being in the "fall" of my life. Comfort before style. That's my new motto... and I don't care who knows it!

Have a great Monday. I'll be back to my old, happy self first thing tomorrow morning... you hope!

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morn.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Friday, December 9, 2011

Weekend Happenings

Good Friday morning!

The Gallery Pics are from Roxie's Volleyball Banquet last night. Fun was had by all... and I didn't have to cook dinner! I love banquets.

ANNOUNCEMENT! ANNOUNCEMENT! ANNOUNCEMENT! - The winner of the Christmas Dishrag Contest is... DAWN GRILL!

Dawn, I'll be delivering your lovely Christmas Dishrag AND your bottle of Bath and Body Works Vanilla Bean Noel Anti-Bacterial Moisturizing Hand Soap this weekend.

Enjoy!

RANDOMNESS #1 - You may have noticed I am NOT posting every single day on my picture-of-the-day blog, 50 is Nifty. However, I am taking a picture every day. I post every three to five days because it saves me a little time.

I hope you don't mind, but try to remember... it's all about me!

RANDOMNESS #2 - I have two more Neiman-Marcus gifts to share with you today. I want to make sure you have enough time to order them before the Big Day!

5. Assouline Custom-Built Library
Price - $125,000

Floor to ceiling, wall-to-wall, and objects of decor... each of these libraries get handpicked according to your style and taste. There are over 250 vintage and current maestros from the field of art and culinary sciences whose self-authored books would adorn the shelves. No iPads or tablets are found anywhere in the scene, as the space is exclusively redone for "real" book reading. But what you do read is strictly according to your personal taste.

The furniture is designer, too, but minimalistic in its appeal, letting you read and relax "the vintage way."

6. Dream Folly Fantasy Tent
Price - $75,000

With everyone looking for an exclusive space for a personal retreat, the Dream Folly Fantasy Tent from Rainier Yurts might solve the problem by beautifying your garden space. With an 18-foot diameter, mixed grain interior lattice system, Sunbrella exterior lining, plexi-glass door and dome, one begins to wonder if it is a mansion, but it’s only a 1960’s inspired tent we are talking about.

Inside the tent, there are exclusive upholstery pieces such as the hand-crafted, down-filled pillows by Rebecca Vizard. The other appealing addition is the hand-crafted chandelier by Julie Neill Designs, lending a rather dreamy ambiance to the interiors.

However, the pleasing aspect of this gift is the $5,000 donation towards the Breast Cancer Research Foundation for the sale of each unit. And you get to pick the color of your choice! It doesn't get better than that!

NOTE - As always, I'm a giver. A giver of Christmas dishrags, stocking stuffer ideas and now, gift ideas for that special someone. You don't have to thank me... unless you want to take me for a ride on your new speedboat. Just saying.

RANDOMNESS #3 - The official Christmas Card Count stands at SEVEN. And that's all I'm going to say about that!

Weekend Happenings

We definitely don't have as much going on this weekend as last, which is a good thing.

Tonight, Roxie has a basketball game, Josh is working and Austin has some plans. I'm hoping we can all meet back at Faulkner Farms (circa 1842) for a late night Christmas movie. That would be great.

I'm planning on asking Mikie out for a Saturday morning date. (I have something different in mind this week, and I hope we both enjoy it. If not, we can always swing by Original Pancake House on the way home. We already know we love that place.)

Josh will be working. Austin will be practicing with the Southerners for their London parade. Roxie will be preparing for a Saturday evening outing with some friends.

And Mike and I will take the free Saturday evening to finish up some Christmas shopping. Maybe finish ALL the Christmas shopping. That would truly be lovely.

Sunday we'll be attending church, and right now, the plan is to go to our church's Christmas program Sunday evening as a family.

Somewhere in all this Christmas goodness, I plan on wrapping some gifts, mailing some Christmas cards and finishing the new level of the 2012 Christmas Season of Angry Birds.

Where will I find the time?

Have a joyful weekend. Enjoy celebrating this most wonderful season with friends and family. I'll be back Monday with Mindless Monday, Randomness, more of The 12 Days of Inflatables and a lot more Christmas "stuff" to share.

Take care, and I'll talk to you next week.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Dates for This Weekend

Good Thursday morning!

The Gallery Pics are a few leftover from this weekend. I'll have new photos for tomorrow's post because Roxie's Volleyball Banquet is tonight. Lovely chicks in lovely dresses... and they all want their picture taken. I'm going to be in my happy place!

ANNOUNCEMENT! ANNOUNCEMENT! ANNOUNCEMENT! - Two days after I announced the Guestbooker at the bottom of my page was WORKING PROPERLY, it broke! Yep! BROKE!

Anyone else who wants to enter the Christmas Dishrag Contest (yes, the name is going to stay the same) must let me know via Facebook, e-mail (mfaulkner1306@charter.net) or just come by the house and throw a rock through the window. I'll get the message!

You can still leave one comment per day. (If you leave four comments, your name goes in the bowl FOUR TIMES.)

I will draw the winner next Friday morning, December 9!

What is the prize? What is the prize?

I knew you would ask. I will be giving away a BEAUTIFUL, HOMEMADE Christmas Dishrag... PLUS, a bottle of Bath and Body Works Vanilla Bean Noel Anti-Bacterial Moisturizing Hand Soap. (See picture below.)

Hurry up, Guys! There's only ONE day left to enter... and you know you want that dishrag!

RANDOMNESS #1 - I knew you were wondering. The Boy is coming home this afternoon for Christmas Break. I'm preparing the fatted calf... or pig... or other big piece of meat. Because The Boy likes meat... and Italian Chicken. (I know. Italian Chicken is meat, too. I'm just so excited I'm a little muddled!)

It's going to be a good day!

RANDOMNESS #2 - I know you're sitting on the edge of your seat. I won't make you wait any longer. I still have only SIX Christmas Cards. SIX. I have to admit, I'm starting to get a little worried.

I stayed up late last night and put 60 of my 120 cards in the mail today. I hope that inspires/motivates/guilts you to get busy!

No pressure! This is, and will always be, a "no pressure" blog.

RANDOMNESS #3 - I'm going to share two more "Most Expensive Neiman-Marcus" gifts with you today. They just keep getting better and better.

3. 2012 Bespoke Ferrari FF
Price - $395,000

When expensive gifts are being talked about, it’s seldom that Ferrari as a brand is missing from the list. This Christmas list will have a limited edition Ferrari FF created exclusively for the Neiman Marcus store, which will sell the car to 10 lucky qualifying customers. Also, strict watch has been kept to ensure that no customer can purchase more than 1 unit of this car. Like most others, this limited edition coupe has a V-12 engine of 651 HP capacity that can take you from 0-100 km/ph in under 3.7 seconds and it has a top speed of over 322 km/ph.

The body, as well as the interiors, have received a special grey tone called the ‘Grigio Caldo’, along with embellishments of the Neiman Marcus logo. The difference for the interiors will be the fabric used which is a softened version of the semi-aniline leather, and will come with a special custom made luggage set. The seating capacity is for 4 adults with ample space for comfort.

NOTE - As you can see, the gifts are getting more affordable. I am SO glad they are limiting the amount of Ferraris you can purchase. Buying two would just be tacky!

4. Hacker Craft Speed Boat
Price - $250,000

Another item which mesmerizes at first is the Hacker Speed boat of the Neiman Marcus 2011 Christmas collection. This 27-footer speed vessel has 1400 hours of detailed craftsmanship used on its body and technical components, which include the rare mahogany wooden hull, embalmed with 15 coats of varnish for the perfect finish.

Also adding to the exclusivity factor is the limited edition production of 10 boats and features like underwater lighting, gold leaf waterline, cream colored seats with purple piping, GPS, refrigerator and premium stereo system for entertainment. For people who like to light up during journeys, there is the monogrammed humidor to store their favorite cigars. Like most items on this exclusive Christmas list, a donation of $3,000 will be made to the Double H Ranch for each sale conducted, aimed at rehabilitating families with children suffering from life-threatening diseases.

NOTE - I wasn't sure about this one, but the purple lining on the cream-colored seats put me over. It's definitely going on my list!

Blog Linkage - Bloggers seem to write better in December. I have a lot of good posts for you to read!

1. Go to www.kellehampton.com and look at her sidebar. Find the Archives, click on December and read the December 1 post entitled "Christmas Past, Christmas Present, Christmas Future." Excellent!

2. If you didn't get a chance yesterday, stay on Kelle's Archives and click on the December 3 post entitled "Party at the North Pole." Such good ideas and wonderful pictures to go along with all the other party details.

3. Go to www.angiesmithonline.com and read her post entitled "Sketched" dated December 3. (I found this particular blog on one of BooMama's posts last week.)

4. Go to Dating Divas under My Blog List and scroll down to the post entitled "Ding-Dong Ditch" dated December 7. This would be a fun, fun activity to do as a family.

5. Go to BooMama under My Blog List and read her post entitled "20 Teen-Friendly Gifts Under $20" dated December 8. Great list. Good ideas.

6. Go to Confessions of a Pioneer Woman under My Blog List. Click on Photography at the top of her page. Enjoy the Christmas Card pictures fans have created. Pretty funny stuff.

I don't think you can say I didn't give you anything worthwhile to read today, can you?

Christmas Dates for This Weekend

There's a lot going on this weekend. If you and one of your children want to do something fun together, here's a list to choose from!

1. Polar Express Storytime – Barnes and Noble at the Summit

Barnes and Noble will be hosting a Polar Express Storytime highlighted by a special reading of the holiday classic, and hot chocolate and cookies. Children are encouraged to wear their pajamas. It begins at 7:00 p.m., Friday, December 9.

2. Bart's Art Cart – Holiday Cards – Birmingham Museum of Art

Tis the season! Design and create custom holiday cards for your friends and family with Bart the Art Bat!

Visit Bart’s Art Cart in the main lobby to explore great art and create some art of your own with the help of our Teen Volunteers. Each month highlights a different gallery and features a new art activity. Learn how to look at art with your child. Stop by and make art with Bart! It begins at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, December 10 AND Sunday, December 11.

3. Saturday Market – Pepper Place

Visit our region’s farming families at the Pepper Place Saturday Market. They grow vegetables and flowers, bake breads and cookies, cakes and pies, tend the bees, and drive into the Lakeview District of Birmingham to sell the fruits of their labors.

In addition to farmers, bakers and beekeepers, you can enjoy local musicians on two stages while sipping a fresh cup of coffee or enjoying a light breakfast. There is a cooking demonstration at 9:00 a.m. every Saturday morning by Birmingham’s finest chefs.

I've mentioned Pepper Place before. This is held Saturday from 7:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon.

4. Snowball Snack – Ruffner Mountain

Brr! It’s cold outside! We know the chances of snow are pretty slim in Birmingham, so let’s make our own snow... a snowball that is! This treat is a blast to make and delicious as well. AND IT IS FREE.

Make your snowball treat at 10:30 a.m. or 1:00 p.m. this Saturday, December 10.

5. Super Snowman Storytime – Barnes and Noble at the Summit

Come find out what crazy shenanigans snowmen get into at night when we read Snowmen at Night by Carolyn Buehner. Plus, make a snowman of your very own to take home! We’ll have snacks, too. This event will take place at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 10.

If you have some free time this weekend (and you KNOW you will), pick a date and have some Christmas fun... one-on-one.

Have a happy Thursday. I'll be back tomorrow with Weekend Happenings, Randomness, more of The 12 Days of Inflatables, pictures galore... and who knows what else!

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning!

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

North Pole Party

Good Wednesday morning!

The Gallery Pic is from last night's Christmas Talent Show at the high school. It takes a lot of guts to stand up in front of your peers and sing. I do want to give kudos to the audience. They were excellent... to every single act. I love it when kids have fun and are supportive of each other! Love it!

ANNOUNCEMENT! ANNOUNCEMENT! ANNOUNCEMENT! - Two days after I announced the Guestbooker at the bottom of my page was WORKING PROPERLY, it broke! Yep! BROKE!

Anyone else who wants to enter the Christmas Dishrag Contest (yes, the name is going to stay the same) must let me know via Facebook, e-mail (mfaulkner1306@charter.net) or just come by the house and throw a rock through the window. I'll get the message!

You can still leave one comment per day. (If you leave four comments, your name goes in the bowl FOUR TIMES.)

I will draw the winner next Friday morning, December 9!

What is the prize? What is the prize?

I knew you would ask. I will be giving away a BEAUTIFUL, HOMEMADE Christmas Dishrag... PLUS, a bottle of Bath and Body Works Vanilla Bean Noel Anti-Bacterial Moisturizing Hand Soap. (See picture below.)

Hurry up, Guys! There's only two days left to enter... and you know you want that dishrag!

RANDOMNESS #1 - I don't know about you, but I LOVE to see the Neiman-Marcus Most Expensive Christmas Gift List each year. It just boggles this simple 50 year-old chick's mind.

I'm going to share two a day the next five blog posts. They are, in a word, unbelievable!

1. His and Hers 2011 Dancing Fountains
Price - ONLY $1,000,000

From 1983, WET has been a pioneer in the field of designer fountains, and the best example is perhaps the DUBAI Fountain, the largest of its kind in the world.

They have managed to create a million dollar version of their latest creation... a dancing fountain with robotic features. The special nozzles spray water in such a fashion it looks like a couple dancing to the finest of western art forms, sometimes as a couple or even as dance rivals. They will be enchanting you with their bows, twirls, whirls and sweeps with grace barely seen anywhere else. The charitable aspect of this sale includes the donation of $10,000 to the WATER.ORG organization, which works providing clean potable water to developing countries around the world.

2. International Flower Show Tour
Price - $420,000

Coming March 2012, each guest along with 9 companions will be on the special tour vacation of the exotic destinations around Europe to witness some of the world’s finest flowers and sustainable horticulture.

With the trip beginning in Merges, Switzerland, one can witness 300 tulip varieties with the backdrop of Lake Geneva, and later relax at the luxurious Hotel Laussane Palace & Spa. After that, the next destination will be Athens, Greece where the guests will witness the Kifisia Flower Show of more than 2,000 varieties of plants and flowers from around the world.

Next in line is Avignon, France, where the Altera Rosa Festival is held to showcase 30 new rose varities each year. Then off to London, where the Chelsea Flower Show will be on display. The illustrations will suggest how traditional and ancient horticulture designs can be blended with one another.

Mind you, you will stay three days and two nights at each destination, with gourmet meals, private transportation and concierge service. The charitable part of the vacation is the $5,000 donation towards the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which promotes sustainable horticulture.

This is only the beginning! I'm giving Mikie the list in its entirety, but he may have to get me two things because it's just so hard to choose!

RANDOMNESS #2 - I know you're wondering about a couple of things, so I'll just answer those questions here and now.

1. "How many Christmas Cards did you get yesterday, Enchanting Belinda?"

I'm glad you asked. I received three. That brings my grand total up to SIX cards on December 6. Things are looking up! Only 74 more to go!

2. "You say you want 80 cards this year. Do YOU send out 80 Christmas cards, and if so, where is mine?"

I am sending out about 125 cards this year. (The list gets a little bigger every year. Mike is thrilled, I tell you!) I ordered my cards from Shutterfly, and they arrived on my doorstep yesterday. I addressed 30 last night, and those will be mailed today. (I don't wait until I finish every card before I mail. I send them out as I go along!) Your card will be in your mailbox within a week!

3. "It's Wednesday, and you haven't said one word about Pinterest. What's going on? Are you one of those people creating boards, but NOT doing anything about it?"

As a matter of fact, I am "Pinteresting" today. I'm doing a little Christmas project involving Christmas ornaments, magnetic strips and a refrigerator. Hopefully, a picture will be forthcoming. (I'm also planning on making the Nutella cookies in the next day or so. I'll let you know how those turn out!)

What? No more questions. That's okay. I need to finish this up and start addressing more Christmas Cards!

Wednesday Wisdom

"Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect." Oren Arnold

"Christmas is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas." Dale Evans

"The only blind person at Christmastime is he who has not Christmas in his heart."
Helen Keller

North Pole Party

I don't usually do this, but this party is too good to not share. However, you need to SEE the decorations and other ideas...

I want you to go to www.kellehampton.com and scroll down, down, down to the post entitled "Party at the North Pole" dated December 3.

Just take it ALL IN! It is so good, so simple, so fun and so perfect if you have little ones.

WARNING! - This post was so good, it even showed up on Pinterest the day it was posted! Not bad!

Have a holly, jolly Wednesday! It's Encouraging Wednesday, so make a list and start calling, texting or e-mailing people who need a special word today. It may be the "happiest season of all," but so many are hurting. Be sure and reach out to someone TODAY! It will be time well spent.

I'll be back in the morning with a lot of Blog Linkage, a Date, Randomness and so much more.

Take care, and I'll talk to you tomorrow.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda
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