Wednesday, July 10, 2019

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

Good Wednesday afternoon!

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

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

Let's get started!

Easy Ultra Creamy Mac and Cheese

You will need the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But do not be deceived.

I was going.

Oh, Baby, was I going!

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

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

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

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


Me, too.

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

Are you sensing a pattern?

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

And we tagged along for that, too.

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

Pretty much the very BEST kind of day.

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

We looked for murals.

These are just a few of my favorites.

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

All in all, a pretty nice weekend.

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

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

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

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


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

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

It was a fun way to spend a Thursday evening.

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

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

And he survived.

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


The End!

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

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

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

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

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

Grits Bar...

Ice Cream Bar...

Waffle Bar...

Bagel Bar...

Nacho Bar...

Baked Potato Bar.

I think you get the idea.

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

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

Fresh cut scallions...

Crushed cheese crackers...

Chopped bacon...

Ham bits.

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

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

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

That's right.

An inflatable water slide...

With little dolphins at the top.

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

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

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

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

Eden's very first 4th of July.

She picked out the perfect little outfit.

RT got some air!

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

Maybe not...

But that's what happened.

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

I think Sawyer let it slip.

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

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

My sister and her entire family.

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


The Enchanting Belinda

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

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

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Disney Staycation

Hey, Guys...

As promised there are some more Disney Staycation pics at the bottom of this post.

The post is the same, but the pics are NEW!

Good Saturday morning!

As promised, here is the post from my daughter-in-law, Melia, about her Disney Staycation.

Austin and I learned early in our marriage that typical vacations are not our “thing.” As we prepared for our first vacation as husband and wife, I spent the entire day and night before we left planning my outfits, getting our snacks, making sure laundry was done, cleaning our apartment, checking flights, etc. etc. etc. Around 10:00 that night, Austin walked into the bedroom and began packing.

“Do you think 4 pair of underwear will be plenty?”

“Well, we’re going to be gone for about 6 days, so I might get a few more.”

“Okay, well what should I put my toothbrush in?”

“The toothbrush cases are under the counter in the bathroom."

“Right. So, when I am done here, you’re going to check all my things that I leave out and put them in the bag for me, right?”

“Yeah… I won’t be doing that.”

I’ll spare you the details of how the conversation continued from there, but that was when I learned that I am not married to a world traveler. Since then, Austin and I have taken many great trips! Then we had a baby and the overwhelming, organized chaos ensued.

In our parenthood, we have determined that staycations are more our style. We began going on staycations last summer when a full vacation really wasn’t in our budget, and we loved it! This year, I decided to step it up a notch with a Disney-themed staycation. It makes sense really, when you consider how much planning, money, time, effort, and magic it takes to make a Disney vacation happen with a toddler. We opted to create a Disney-like experience for our 2-year-old from the comfort of our home.

Here’s how we did it:

1. The Schedule

I created a schedule based off the activities that were available to us that resembled the overall makeup of four Disney parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Blizzard Beach).

We planned out what we were going to do based on our daily schedule and what worked for us.

In Magic Kingdom, we went to Let’s Play, an indoor gym/play area that has “rides” that our little guy can do. The best part is he can do literally everything in the gym. There are no age or height limits that apply to him!

In Animal Kingdom, we went to the zoo. Our zoo also has Dole Whips, a Carousel, a train, and of course animals/animal-related activities such as giraffe feedings!

In Hollywood Studios, we went to the McWane Center, our local Children’s Museum/Science Center. We played in the Itty Bitty Magic City (which is set up similar to a movie set) and participated in a demonstration about craters on the moon!

In Blizzard Beach, we went to the Cullman Wellness Aquatic Center. For $10 per person a family can spend the day lounging by the pools, going down slides, playing on the playground (which is ON the water), floating down the lazy river, or playing in the splash pad; and that’s JUST the kids’ pool, there is also another outdoor pool and an indoor pool.

2. The Daily Details

After we planned WHAT we were going to do, we planned HOW we were going to do it! Disney is all about the details, right? Each morning, we started our day with Mickey Mouse waffles (thanks, Eggo!), and a surprise letter from a character telling us where we were going with a gift to use during that day. For example, our guy got a stuffed Simba on the day we went to Animal Kingdom.

Each night, we had a movie night that fit the theme for the day. On Blizzard Beach Day, we watched Finding Nemo in Momma and Daddy’s bed.

We also made a point to work in a date night for Mom and Dad. This happened on our Magic Kingdom Day, and yes, it fit into the theme as well! We dropped RT off at his Fairy GRANDmother’s house (Nana B) then headed off to the movie theater to catch a matinee of Aladdin and an Italian dinner (like in Lady and the Tramp)

3. What We’ve Learned

Throughout our staycation experience, we’ve learned a thing or two about how to get away when we aren’t on a getaway.

Plan and prepare those around you - As mean as it sounds, we have to say no to things that aren’t truly family-related. Even though we’re in town, we are still on vacation, so non-family things must fall to the wayside as much as possible.

Be flexible - Staycations should be as relaxing, if not more relaxing, than a normal vacation. Don’t stress, don’t over plan, and, most importantly, listen to your family when they need a break! By Wednesday, our two-year-old told me that he wanted to take a nap. So, we all took a nap!

4. The Breakdown - This was such a fun vacation that really worked for us and was cost effective. Not including food, our week cost us less than $100.

We have McWane Center and Zoo memberships saving us money. Here’s the rest of our budget breakdown:

$8 for Let’s Play
$20 for Cullman Wellness Aquatic Center
$15 for Mickey Ears (found on Amazon)
$7 for Stuffed Simba
$6 for Mr. Potato Head
$20 for Toy Story Puddle Jumper

The important part of a staycation is making it work for you! We worked hard to make our vacation something special for our son and to give him new and different experiences that he doesn’t get during the school year. One day we’ll go to the real Disney World, but for now, we’ll just tell Mickey, “See ya real soon!”

NOTE FROM ENCHANTING BELINDA - We had some trouble getting ALL of the pics ready for the post, so here are the first five. It will be the first of next week before we have all the others ready for your perusal!

Y'all have a great weekend. I'll talk to you next week!


The Enchanting Belinda

P. S. More Disney Staycation Pics...

Here are a couple from the day they went to "Blizzard Beach"!

Pizza Planet!

The breakfast food.

The snack food.

One night, the movie theater was a fort!

Let me know if any of you have a Disney Staycation. I would love to hear ALL about it!
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