Monday, November 12, 2012

Mindless Monday, Slow Cooker Sunday Beef Stew, Hikes for Tykes Date, Polar Express Night at The Painted Bisquet Date

Good Monday morning!

It is raining here. No storms. Just drip, drip, dripping rain. Normally, I would absolutely love a rainy November day with the kids out of school... but today I had special plans... and I'm hoping the rain goes away by noon.

I was/am going with my sister, niece and daughter to Morris Avenue, Railroad Park and Vulcan to take more Senior pics of Katie (and a few of Roxie thrown in for good measure).

The gray skies do not bother me.

The lack of full Fall trees does not bother me. (The drippy rain is taking care of/knocking down many of the leaves today.)

The colder weather does not bother me.

But drippy rain? Drippy rain a good photo shoot does not make!

Tell you what. If we get to go, I'll be posting Katie and Roxie pics this evening.

If not... You're stuck with the two or three measly pictures I took this past weekend.

You better hope it stops raining.

RANDOMNESS #1 - Mikie and Roxie went on a brunch date Saturday. Roxie picked Original Pancake House, and she and Mikie enjoyed a leisurely omelet and pancake brunch on a beautiful Fall Saturday morning.

Did that sound a little jealous? It did, didn't it? I tried, but after I ate my bowl of Marshmallow Maties the Little Green Monster kind of took over... if you know what I mean.

And, no. I'm not so petty I didn't want Mikie and Roxie to go on a date. Just not to The Original Pancake House... without me... ordering strawberry crepes... and being so, so happy when I left.

But I'm an adult, and I will eventually get over this. Not today. Not tomorrow. But maybe this time next year.

Roxie always gets "dolled-up" for a date with her Dad.

RANDOMNESS #2 - The 2012 Faulkner Five Christmas Card is almost completed. All that is missing is ONE really, really good picture of me and Mikie together.

That means we are light years away from the completion of the 2012 Faulkner Five Christmas Card.

RANDOMNESS #3 - If you've known me two minutes, you have discovered I am the Queen of Tweaking. If something is good, but not quite "perfect," my mind goes into tweaking mode. How can we make this recipe, event, party, etc. BETTER?

This is true of the Annual Cousin Black Friday Spend-the-Night at the Wynfrey Extravaganza Bev, Amy, Monica, Roxie, Katie and I "have" every Thanksgiving.

Yes. I know I need to tweak the uber-long name of this event. Thanks for pointing it out.

Our first year, we were novices. We went to bed at 10:00 p.m., woke up at 2:00 a.m. for the Door Buster Sales, ate breakfast at 6:00 a.m. and half of us went back to the room to sleep until 10:00 a.m. which was check-out time.

We were happy, but exhausted. We definitely wanted to continue the tradition, but it needed TWEAKING.

The second year, we decided to skip the 2:00 a.m. Door Buster Sales. We went to bed later than 10:00 p.m., had breakfast at 6:00 a.m. and shopped until 10:00 or 11:00 a.m.

Better. Much better, actually. However, we were still exhausted and TWEAKING was still needed.

Last year was much like the year before except we brain-stormed together... and my cousin, Amy, came up with a brilliant plan.

"Why don't we sleep at home Thanksgiving Night... meet at the Galleria to shop at 6:00 a.m. FRIDAY morning... get early check-in at the Wynfrey... take naps in the hotel room as needed... go out to eat Friday night and go to a blockbuster Thanksgiving Weekend Movie before heading back to the hotel room, drinking hot chocolate and going to sleep whenever we feel the need. Oh! And we can get late check-out!"

I thought I was a good Tweaker.

I relinquish the Tweaking Crown to Amy.

If everything turns out as planned, this could be the best Annual Cousin Black Friday Spend-the-Night at the Wynfrey Extravaganza EVER!

And maybe this year we can work on the name.

These girls were ready to shop last year.

And then they were gone!

Hikes for Tykes Date

I would have loved this date over a decade ago, but I don't think it was offered way back when.

All of the hikes take place at 10:00 a.m. at the Botanical Gardens (Saturdays, November 17 and November 24).

The hike is a hands-on adventure for preschool children to explore nature.

This event is FREE, but you do have to register. Call 205-401-0245 or go to events@freshairfamily.org to save your spot.

If you have two preschoolers, take one each Saturday it is offered. One-on-one with a preschooler is always a treat.

Polar Express Night at The Painted Bisquet

I saw this ad in the Birmingham Parent magazine, and while I have not gone to Polar Express Night, I have enjoyed time at this "paint your own ceramics" shop in Cullman.

Polar Express Night(s) are November 29 at 5:30 and December 1 at 6:00. Wear your pajamas. Paint trains (or other Christmasy things). Enjoy cookies and cocoa.

You will need to call to reserve your child's spot. You can contact them at 256-734-6800 or go to www.thepaintedbisquiet.com.

I love the Polar Express events in December because they ALWAYS say "wear your pajamas." Any event or activity which "requires" you to wear pajamas in public is a good thing. (You can quote me on that.)

Slow Cooker Sunday Beef Stew

I've been making Slow Cooker Beef Stew for years. And I've been tweaking my Slow Cooker Beef Stew recipe for years. It tasted fine, but it wasn't just right. And I wanted it to be "just right."

Enter Pinterest.

You will need the following:

2 pounds stewing beef, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium-sized onions, chopped into large pieces
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
20 mini-potatoes
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
3 cups sodium reduced beef broth, divided
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and then lightly brown the meat in batches. Transfer browned beef to a plate and set aside.

2. Dump the tomatoes into the slow cooker (juice and all). Crush them with a potato masher or the back of a spoon.

3. Add the onions, celery, carrots and potatoes.

4. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning over the vegetables and then add the beef and any accumulated drippings.

5. Pour 2 1/2 cups of the beef broth over the beef and vegetables. Give the mixture a quick stir.

6. Add the bay leaves.

7. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

8. About 20 minutes before serving, add the peas (no need to defrost first), salt and pepper.

9. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and remaining 1/2 cup of beef broth, creating a smooth paste. Stir into the stew. Replace the slow cooker cover and cook until thickened (about 15 to 20 minutes).

10. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

Guess what, Folks. It worked. It was REAL beef stew.

I did have a little problem locating one of the bay leaves before serving. In fact, it was nowhere to be found. After I gave the family "the bay leaf warning" before they started eating, it was a perfectly enjoyable bowl of beef stew.

Have a wonderful Monday. If you see someone in uniform today (or any other day for that matter), be sure to walk up and thank them and their families for their sacrificial service to our country. The only thing wrong with celebrating Veteran's Day is the fact we don't do it MORE than once a year.

Take care, and I'll talk to you Friday. Oh... And check back this evening to see if there are any Senior Pics of Katie. (I just talked to Bev and we're shooting for 1:00 p.m. Wish us luck!)


The Enchanting Belinda

P.S. I have lots of pictures of The Chick today, so I'm going to throw in an old one (last March) of my guys.

I know. They take your breath away, don't they?

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