Author Archives: audraoconnellis

It isn’t just a party

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Norah My youngest child, Norah, turned a year old today. The cliché of how it doesn’t seem plausible isn’t so cliché now. I blinked somewhere in October and now we’re here.

A first birthday has always been bittersweet for me with my girls. It’s an acknowledgement that as parents, we were okay enough to navigate through the year of their lives in which they’re the most vulnerable. For the child—it’s an “I can’t believe I survived with those idiots as my parents” celebration. It’s also saying farewell to babyhood. Bottles, sleepless nights (unless you have my zombie children), onesies, baths in little tubs shaped like whales, counting ages by months vs. years, giant diaper bags; it’s all quickly behind you while the joys (note the sarcasm there) and trials of life as a toddler loom ahead.

With Norah, this melancholy that is a first birthday is enhanced. She’s my last baby. I chose to have a tubal ligation after her birth due to pregnancies racked with medical issues and the realization that financially, we couldn’t support another (or Norah, for that matter). I knew as soon as I was pregnant with her that she was it. I never flinched or hesitated the million times my OB/GYN asked me during prenatal appointments if I was sure. Uh, of course I was sure—go look at my house with its flooring of smashed up Cheerios, piles waist deep of dirty laundry and children whose lack of hygiene rival the kids on TV you can sponsor for $9.95 a month. I certainly had NO business having another baby. Nor did I want one.

The finality of it all was what I failed to realize a year ago. It cannot biologically happen again. The chapter of our lives that involved weekly trips to hear heartbeats, picking out coming home outfits and first pictures, oohing and awing over tiny feet and hands—it’s a thing of the past. I don’t want another baby, what I do wish is that I had decided against the tubal because I liked having the option. Without options, you must accept reality and push ahead. My reality is that I’m be thrust forward towards sleepovers, sports practice, after school activities and dances.

However, this time, I refuse to blink.

Irish Potato Cheddar Soup

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Four years ago (the last time I was in Ireland) I was almost three months pregnant with my oldest daughter. I was sicker than a dog. I could hardly eat a bite and survived most of the trip on cereal and toast. One afternoon, we headed to a local pub for a bite and I had the most amazing veggie soup I’d ever had. I was so thrilled to be able to keep something down and this soup hit the spot. I knew it had leeks and potatoes in it but I couldn’t figure out what else there was (because the person had blended it all together). I came across this recipe from Whole Foods and I must say, it’s better than the original I’ve been pining over for all these years!

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Irish Potato Cheddar Soup

3TBS. Unsalted Butter

3  large leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped

2  pounds medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

1 (48 ounce) box Chicken Broth

3  cups 2% milk

1 1/2  teaspoon fine sea salt

6   sprigs fresh thyme

1  pound asparagus, ends trimmed, thinly sliced into coins

2  cups (1/2 lb) grated Kilaree Cheddar, divided (I used Dubliner but really, anything will work).

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add potatoes, broth, milk, salt and thyme; bring just to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until potatoes are very tender, 20 to 25 minutes; discard thyme.

Working in batches, carefully purée soup in a blender until smooth (or use a hand blender), and then return to pot. (Note: I am more of the kind that likes having the nice chunks of asparagus and potatoes so I skipped this step). Return to a simmer, add asparagus and cook until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, gently stir in 1 1/2 cups cheddar and ladle into bowls. Garnish with remaining cheddar and serve.

This recipe is AMAZING with some nice hot bread out of the oven.

Slow Low Country Boil

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I’m somewhat of a crock pot fanatic. I mean that while at the same time having spent years only using it for pot roast. Seriously, pathetic.

 

Those days are LONG gone. I now use it for EVERYTHING. So when I saw this recipe on Pinterest I HAD to try it. The meal is very similar to some I’ve had in great seafood restaurants (including an amazing meal in Maine several years ago). I also liked it because I’m sorta weird about seafood–I don’t cook it often because when it’s bad, it’s REALLY bad. This made it seem super easy to just toss in (and it was!).

Here’s the modified version I used (because the person that originally used this recipe must have had the biggest crock pot ever made. I cut the original recipe in half so it’d all fit.

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3-4 quarts cold water
1/4 cup Old Bay or other spicy seasoning (less if you can’t handle spicy)
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more, to taste
4 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
1 head garlic, halved
2-2 1/2 pounds small red potatoes
3-4 ears corn, shucked, each cut into 4 pieces
2 pounds smoked sausage, cut into 1 1/2-inch slices
2 pounds medium shrimp, in the shell, deveined

 

Directions:

In a slow cooker combine the water, Old Bay seasoning, salt, celery, onion, garlic and potatoes and cook on low heat until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, 4-6 hours.

Add the corn and sausage to the crock pot and simmer until the corn is tender, 1-2 more hours. Add the shrimp and simmer until opaque, 20 to 30 minutes more. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Serve immediately.

 

Honey, nutmeg, cinnamon facial mask

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I hardly ever buy beauty products. They are SO expensive and I usually don’t feel like I see much of a difference. So, I always love finding DIY versions on Pinterest. I came across a recipefor a cinnamon, nutmeg, honey beauty mask. It stated that nutmeg and honey reduce swelling and redness in your skin, as well as soothe acne scars and prevent infection. So, as I always have all three of those on hand, I decided to give it a try.

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Facial Mask
1TBS. Honey
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

Mix all together into a paste. Apply on skin and leave on for 30 minutes. Mine became kinda drippy at the end. I hopped in the shower and took it off by rubbing in a circular motion and it really exfoliated my skin as well. This recipe is a winner. My skin looks brighter, feels softer and much shiner. Let me know how it works for you!

Homemade Taco Seasoning

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We LOVE tacos in our home and typically eat them once per week. I used to buy a taco seasoning blend from a local spice manufacturer–but I noticed that their regular blend and even their bold were a little to blah for my tastes. Plus it was SUPER expensive given the amount we use. I found this recipe online a year ago and have been using it ever since. It’s fun to play with a bit (I like more garlic then is normally calls for). The family LOVES it. Even my toddler eats it. I will say I usually double or triple the recipe to make enough to last for a while.

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Homemade Taco Seasoning

This recipe makes 1 oz.

INGREDIENTS:

1TBS Chili Powder

1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder

1/4 tsp. Onion Powder

1/4 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (I just use crushed red pepper)

1/4 tsp. Dried Oregano

1/2 tsp. Paprika

1 1/2 tsp. Ground Cumin

1 tsp. Sea Salt

1 tsp. Black Pepper

Just mix it all together and store in an airtight container.

 

Homemade Scented Laundry Fabric Softner Crystals

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I LOVE Downy Unstoppables. They make our clothes smells AMAZING. There’s only three minor problems:

1. They are insanely expensive

2. The girls and I are pretty much allergic to any and all fragrances.

3. They are full of all sorts of junk.

 

Because of the whole allergic issue before I started making my own detergent I used a “free and clear” detergent. Which was rather boring and made my clothes smell like nothing. My homemade detergent doesn’t really have a scent either…enter this dandy little recipe I found on Pinterest. I’ve been making these for a couple of months now and I love them.

Homemade Downey Unstoppables

Homemade Scented Laundry Fabric Softener Crystals

Stuff you need:

– Epsom Salt (or Ice Cream Salt or Coarse Sea Salt)

– Your favorite essential oil (I’ve made batches of Lemongrass and Orange–they both came out amazing.)

– Something to stir or blend with (I just use a fork)

– An airtight container and scoop. (I use an old formula container and it’s scoop)

– A bowl for mixing. (I just use the container I’m storing it in)

 

Directions:

Pour salt (as much as you want to make–I used about 2lbs. the last time). Drop in 20-30 drops of your favorite essential oil (more or less depending on your preference). Stir (or use a handheld blender a few pulses). Store in air tight container until use. I have an HE machine and I use two small scoops (about 2 tbs.) per load right into the drum of the washing machine. It’s not overpowering scent but it leaves a little refreshing scent.

 

 

How To Clean A Microfiber Couch/Sofa

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When we bought our Microfiber couch two years ago I figured it was the first new couch I’d ever had as an adult. I was so excited by the purchase that I never stopped to think about my kids destroying it. So, here we are two years later and it was starting to look (and smell!) not so new. When I found this tip on Pinterest I HAD to try it. My results were not nearly as noticeable as the results from Pinterest but there’s a couple reasons for that . 1. My couch is only two years old 2. It isn’t as light of a color 3. I don’t have pets (the Pinterest link photos involve dogs). Needless to say, I noticed a difference in the look of my couch and the smell! It really neutralized the odors.

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This one you could easily already own the needed materials. A vacuum, spray bottle, rubbing alcohol, a white sponge and a white scrub brush. Note: They should be white in order to insure that no color bleeding occurs.

1. Fill the spray bottle with rubbing alcohol.
2. Vacuum the couch to rid it of all loose particles.
3. Work I’m sections spraying an area with the rubbing alcohol and then using the sponge to clean it. I worked in a circular motion and it worked well and actually rather quickly.
4. Let it dry and then if your material is stiff once dry use the scrub brush to loosen it up again.

Before Picture:

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After Picture:

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Gross, but here’s the proof it worked:

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No, the sofa doesn’t smell like rubbing alcohol. It really neutralized the odors in the couch. It also got rid of a two month old formula stain.