Thursday, January 24, 2019

Ham Bean Soup, Camping Story #1 - Coyote Attack (2009), Old Toy Joy AND A Riddle

Good Thursday morn!

I call the above picture, "Always Something Blurry." It's getting harder and harder to take a pic of RT without a blur somewhere...

And that's one of the many things I like about him!

Let us start off with a hearty, winter soup recipe, shall we?

Ham Bean Soup

You will need the following:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups shredded cooked ham
1 quart chicken stock or broth
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon parsley
4 (15-ounce) cans white beans, do not drain
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. In a large pot or saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots and celery. Cook until onions are softened (5 minutes). Sauté the garlic until fragrant (1 minute).

2. Add the ham and cook for a further 2 minutes, then pour in the stock. Add the bay leaves and parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes to combine all of the flavors together.

3. Stir in the beans and season with pepper. Let simmer for 2 minutes, taste test and season with salt if needed.

4. Serve warm.

Mike and I had this recently, and it was delicious!

RANDOMNESS #1 - Over the next month or so, I am going to be sharing some camping stories with y'all.

While it is most definitely NOT the easiest way to spend a long weekend, I believe there are SO many pros for families with kids (young and old) to spend time together in a tent…

And it will be your job to find them in the five camping stories I am going to share. (If you fail to find any, don't worry. When it's all said and done, I'm going to share the pros I found over the years!)

NOTE FROM ENCHANTING BELINDA - These stories were first written and posted in 2009.

Camping Story #1 - Coyote Attack

It was Austin's birthday, and we decided to take five buddies to Camp David for a birthday camping trip. (Camp David is our church-owned property in Cullman County. It is beautiful and has hiking trails, campsites, volleyball, basketball courts, small lake for fishing, etc., etc., etc. It is a perfect place to take several ten year-old boys.) At the time we went, we enlisted our good friend, Kerry, the Eagle Scout, to go with us to enhance our camping experience.

We decided to pitch our tent far away from the pavilion and bathrooms on a hill in the middle of a group of tall pine trees. It was a gray day in March, cool and breezy... just right for camping.

The boys had a wonderful time setting up camp, playing, cooking on the fire... all the things that make camping great. Around 11:00, we called it a night, made the boys brush their teeth (kind of) and all of us, six boys and three adults, crawled into the ten-man tent. It was... cozy! After about 30 or 45 minutes of boys making "boy noises," accompanied with hysterical laughter (why is that sooo funny?), everyone settled down and went to sleep.

Kerry and Mikie had a snoring contest, and the boys continued to make "boy noises" even in their sleep, so I dozed off and on for a little while.

We had been warned a pack of coyote lived on the property. In all the times we had been to Camp David, we had never seen or heard them, so I did not think much about it, but on this particular night, I heard howling in the distance. The wind was picking up, too, so I felt a little anxious about being so far from the pavilion in case (1) there was a storm; or (2) we were being encircled by a pack of hungry coyote. I sat up and looked around. Nothing. Two men and six men wannabes, and they were dead to the world. I decided to stay awake and "keep watch" for a little while.

The wind continued to pick up to the point I was starting to get concerned. Cullman is famous for its tornadoes (or should I say infamous), and I was in a nylon tent... on a hill... surrounded by giant pine trees... with five little boys who were not my own... plus, one son, one husband and one Eagle Scout. Hmmm. It wasn't looking good.

As my attention shifted from the animal noises coming from the nearby woods to the tornado activity picking up around our little tent, I suddenly heard the sound of howling once again, but this time much, much closer. In fact, it was clear to me it was more than one animal howling and the ANIMALS were moving in our direction... quickly. Hmmm. Tornado activity AND wild animals running toward us.

You just can't make this stuff up!

I decided to wake the snoring machines when BAM, BAM, BAM... I was actually hit by at least three of the coyotes. The only thing separating us was a thin piece of nylon, and since we were wedged into the tent so tightly, I was directly against the side of the tent. I didn't have time to scream, but the three animals yelped in fear as they hit something solid (solid meaning ME).

I struggled to sit up in my sleeping bag, but I was zipped in tightly, and I was wearing way too many clothes. BAM, BAM. Two more direct hits. I looked around. Could I be dreaming? The wind was roaring, coyotes were yelping and slamming into the tent and the other eight people were totally zonked! What to do? What to do?


Last coyote.

I reached over and shook Mikie awake. I didn't even mention the coyotes, but I did tell him my concern of tornadoes. "What do we need to do?"

"I think it will blow over. Just go back to sleep?"

"The only problem with that is... if it doesn't blow over, that means it touches down. Do we really want to risk that with all these kids?"

"Okay. Okay. I'll go to the truck and listen to the weather." That was the answer I wanted. So Mikie unzipped the tent and headed to the truck. As close as the truck was parked to the tent, I couldn't even hear the motor when he started it up because the wind was now so loud.

One minute passed... five minutes passed... ten minutes (or as I like to call it, an eternity)! I had no other choice but to wake the Eagle Scout.

"Kerry, Mike's been in the truck listening for tornado warnings, and he hasn't come back. I think he's asleep... or listening to country music. Can you check and see what is going on?"

"I think it will just blow over."

"I've already had this discussion. Please go check on Mikie!"

Kerry is a very good friend, and he quickly unzipped and headed out of the tent. I didn't think it possible, but the wind had picked up a little more and our tent felt like the stakes were being pulled out of the ground.

One minute passed... five minutes passed... ten minutes (or as I like to call it, "If some guys don't get back in the tent in 30 seconds, they're going to have a major Belinda Faulkner Fit to deal with the next few days")!

I stuck my head out of the tent. It was worse than I thought. Rain, deafening wind, thunder and lightening in the distance... and Mikie's pick-up truck less than five feet away with Mikie and Kerry sitting high and dry in the front seat. Were they... laughing? Oh, yes they were! I crawled out of the tent and walked (slanted) against the wind and knocked on the windshield. "Do you want to let me know what's going on?" I shouted.

"There's a tornado warning, all right, but it's for Northern Cullman County and it's almost over. We were just talking until it passes," Mikie responded cheerfully.

"Did it occur to you that I was waiting to hear what was going on to see if we needed to move the boys OR something?"

"I figured you had gone back to sleep."

"Are you nuts? Between the snoring, sleeping boy noises and getting hit head on by a pack of crazed coyotes (which, by the way, must have been RUNNING FROM A TORNADO), I haven't been asleep yet!"

"Man... you're going to be grumpy tomorrow," Mike predicted.

I'm not sure, and I can't prove anything, but I think the Eagle Scout said, "Tomorrow?" under his breath.

I turned away and headed back to the boys. Going back was a breeze (pun alert) with the wind behind me, and I climbed into the tent. I was wet, windblown and muddy, so I decided to just lie on top of my sleeping bag until the sun came up. Since we were leaving Camp David at 3:00 p.m. the next day, I only had 12 more hours to go!

The next morning, the boys woke up rested and ready for fun. "Can we fish?" "Can we hike?" "Can we eat?"

As I started making pancakes, I told the boys about the coyotes and the tornado the night before.

"Oh, Mom. I bet it was just a neighbor's dog. It wasn't a pack of coyotes," Austin replied.

"Oh, yes it was. I know a pack of coyote when it hits me!"

And then to add insult to injury, they turned to Mikie and the Eagle Scout and asked them if there had really been a tornado.

"Well, it was a little windy," Mike said.

"A little windy? A little windy?" I sputtered.

"If all that happened last night, why didn't we hear anything?" another little guy asked.

"I guess you couldn't hear anything over the snoring and 'boy noises' everyone was making," I grumpily mumbled.

"What the heck are 'boy noises,' Miss Belinda? Your mom is funny, Austin."

And with that, a decision was made. I would never go on another all-guy camp-out with Austin, Josh and pals. (I have gone up the next morning, made breakfast and "hung out" since the above-described incident, but as far as spending the night in the same tent... not gonna happen.)

I guess the moral of this story would have to be, "There ain't a tent big enough for one husband, an Eagle Scout, six man wannabes and this tired, coyote-beaten mom." (Again, another great tattoo idea!)

In a few days I will post Camping Story #2 - The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" or, as I like to call it, "The Night Mom Tried to Black Out in Georgia."

RANDOMNESS #2 - Old Toy Joy - This Lego Circus Train set is 20 years old...

And I am so glad I kept it!

I still have all of Roxie's like-new Barbies, this Lego set and a few more "classics" from my kids' childhood...

And what can I say?

Thankfully, some things never change.

RANDOMNESS #3 - A Riddle - Can you guess what the following pictures all have in common?

The answer and explanation will be in the next post.

Have a wonderful Thursday. I will be back soon with an answer to the above riddle, another Camping Story and MORE.


The Enchanting Belinda

"To the ladies that gracefully walk around all day wearing high heels; I admire you. To the ladies who somehow manage to fall over their own feet wearing flip flops; you are my soul sisters."

"I love you more than yesterday. Yesterday you got on my nerves."

Monday, January 7, 2019

Betty's Mother, Cinnamon Roll Smoothie Recipe, Judith's 4th Birthday Bash, ZooLight Safari AFTER Christmas, The Actual Day of Birth of RT AND RT's Planes, Trains and Automobiles Party

Good Thursday morning!

Before we get started, I wanted to share something I first posted January 9, 2009. (Yes. I have been blogging for over ten years now!)

I met up with two old friends during the holiday break. (We've been friends for well over 30 years now.) We were ridiculously young together... we went on trips together... we were in each other's weddings... we had babies. In other words, we share a lot of history. I'm saying all of the above because I read a little article called "Betty's Mother" by Patricia Wilson I would like to share with you.

Betty's Mother

Most of the time, I don't notice that I'm growing older. In some far recess of my mind, my biological clock seems to have stopped at thirty-three years. My mental self-image has no gray in her hair, the wrinkles haven't taken hold, and her chin is still singular.

Occasionally, I catch a glimpse of a much older woman in the bathroom mirror, but I just put that down to bad lighting. When I meet the parents of my children's friends, I am always surprised at how old they look. "Must have started late," I tell myself, ignoring the fact that I was a late-blooming parent myself. And if the policeman who stops my car at the road check seems young enough to be my son, I just assume he's a new recruit.

All in all, I feel that I have my aging process pretty well under control.

Until, that is, I met Betty again. Betty and I had attended elementary school together and high school after that. Even when we parted to go our separate ways -- she to teachers' college and I to a technical school -- we still kept in touch. Then we moved on to our own lives and careers. Briefly, we met again when I was a bridesmaid at her wedding, and several months later she came to mine. We didn't meet again for over twenty years, although we did occasionally exchange notes and change-of-address cards.

Through the usual kind of corporate moves, she and her family ended up in Ottawa. To our mutual delight, I was now living a scant hour's drive away. We had never been physically closer. A reunion was in order.

We agreed to meet on our own first before we brought our families together. It seemed fairer to get all of our "do you remembers..." out of the way. Neither of us felt we had to wear a rose in our lapel to distinguish us from the crowd. We'd know each other anywhere!

When I arrived, I asked the maitre d' whether Mrs. St. Onge was there yet. She wasn't. I settled back to wait.

Then, Betty's mother came through the door! Well, it wasn't Betty's mother... it was Betty. Somehow, I hadn't expected her to look a bit different from my old school friend. I certainly hadn't expected her to look -- how can I put it delicately? -- middle-aged!

After all, I hadn't changed. Why should she? Then I saw Betty staring at me in the same open-mouthed surprise. Could it be that I now looked like my mother? Impossible! Could it be that I was also middle-aged? Unthinkable!

I don't really like growing older, mind you. But I'm glad my spiritual body is a lot easier to maintain. In fact, it becomes stronger each day that I walk with the Lord. My faith deepens; my hope grows; my peace abides. The spiritual body thrives on daily use.

Back to Enchanting Belinda... the 2019 version.

I think Ms. Wilson is very wise, don't you? To be able to admit her distaste of growing older, but to also be able to see the benefits of having a spiritual body. I think sometimes we have a hard time seeing past the physical to the spiritual... I know I do.

My friend, Celeste, was looking at a scrapbook I had brought to our little breakfast which chronicled our lives as friends from 1988 to 1992. We laughed and laughed, and we almost cried. We kept saying over and over again, "We looked so good. And we didn't even know it!"

As I looked at Celeste and Alesia that day a couple of weeks ago, the 20-somethings were still in there. I could see them very clearly. Celeste with her always matching accessories and her long manicured fingernails and her big blue eyes. Alesia with her flair for anything and everything fashionable and her cute wrinkled nose when she laughed and her ready smile. They are just as beautiful now as they were 20+ years ago. In fact, I think they look even better.

Life (and kids) can take it out of you... but having the daily relationship with God can certainly put it back in you!

Cinnamon Roll Smoothie

I received an Immersion Blender for Christmas, and I'm experiencing the joys of making smoothies and butternut squash soup. I am certain some recipes will be more healthy than others, but this is the one I chose to start 2019.

You will need the following:

1 cup vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 frozen banana (or fresh banana, but add in 3 to 4 ice cubes)

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Pretty decadent. Not unhealthy if you just drink half, and very filling. I had it for lunch yesterday, and thoroughly enjoyed myself!

RANDOMNESS #1 - Judith's 4th Birthday Bash - That's right. It isn't a typo. Miss Judith is no longer a toddler. She has moved into the "small child" stage of life, and while in some ways it is heartbreaking because she was such a cute Little Tot, Little Girl Judith is turning out to be "very much fun." She has a good sense of humor, a huge imagination and a heart full of compassion.

I not only love her...

I like her immensely.

She wanted to have a Paw Patrol Birthday Party, but with a twist. She kinda just wanted Skye and Everest (the girl pooches) represented.

The party was held at a local gymnastics center in Hartselle, and it had two inflatables. It could not have been more age appropriate, and all of the kiddos had a really good time...

As did the adults.

Judith's hairstyle of choice this holiday season has been the pigtail braid...

And she rocks it.

Also, you are correct in assuming she has chocolate icing/ice cream on her elbow. I had some on the side of my neck. I have determined it is just something that happens at kid parties, and it is no longer an issue for me.

However, the fact I had hollandaise sauce on my cheek a few weeks ago at a nice restaurant where no small children were present, I am totally unable to explain. Very disconcerting.

I don't know why, but a Skye Pinata is a sure-fire way to make the four-and-under crowd happy.

Even the non-violent ones.

RANDOMNESS #2 - ZooLight Safari AFTER Christmas - That's right. AFTER Christmas. There were several reasons we didn't make it to the Zoo before Christmas, and that was okay.

It turned out the appeal of looking at Christmas lights and riding the carousel and train did not fade just because Santa had already come and gone.

Not even a little bit.

Watch out when you put a two-year old near a photo op with a face hole.

It's just one more thing he can climb through...

Head first.

DISCLAIMER - No little boys were injured during the taking of this picture...

Because Mama was really quick grabbing his legs as he went through!

RANDOMNESS #3 - The Actual Day of Birth of RT - On Little Man's Actual Day of Birth, Melia, Aunt Roxie and I took him to Let's Play in Hoover.

And that is exactly what he did!

He played in the Room of Balloons...

He climbed anything and everything he could find...

He went down huge slides, not just once...

But many...

Many times!

He also played on the trampolines, participated in the Glow Stick Dance Party and ran three to four miles (easily).

But best of all...

Little Man enjoyed a very long, very restful nap.

RANDOMNESS #4 - RT's Planes, Trains and Automobiles Party - Melia had his party in her church's gym, and it could not have been a better space. Lots of room for wagons, trikes, scooters, Cozy Coupes and remote control cars.

Add a bubble machine, balloons and Baby Shark playing on the CD player, and you've got the makings of an excellent toddler party!

Don't worry. Sawyer wasn't sad. He just took a moment to recharge...


Definitely not sad!

Carly Beth is SO going to be in the middle of everything next year.

However, this year, she was quite content sitting near the bubbles.

I hope y'all have a wonderful rest of the week. I'll be back soon with some awesome January "stuff" for you and yours!


The Enchanting Belinda

P.S. Guess what? Gonna keep this going for a little while longer!

"It's Thursday, or as I like to call it, 'Day 4 of the hostage situation.'"

"I can't walk the walk, but if you need someone to sleep the sleep, I'm in."
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