Irish Skillet Dinner

• 1 cup beef broth
• ¼ cup apple juice
• 2 tbsps. white vinegar
• 2 tbsps. yellow mustard
• 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. coarse ground pepper
• 1 lb. ground meat
• ½ onion, diced
• 2 tbsps. veg. oil
• 1 lb. Potatoes O’ Brian
• 4 cups shredded green cabbage
• 4 slices cooked, crumbled bacon
In a lg. skillet, cook the ground meat, onion, and cabbage, and drain. Add the veg. oil and hash browns. Cook on med. heat for about 10 min. (or until hash browns are lightly browned), stirring often. Combine the liquids and spices in a mixing bowl, and then add them to the skillet mixture. Throw in bacon, and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed (about 5-10 min.).


Creamy Italian Chicken and Pasta Skillet

¼ cup Italian dressing
 2 cans chicken
 1 onion, chopped
 2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
 1 (14.5 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
 ½ pkg. cream cheese, softened and cubed
 2 ½ cups uncooked pasta
 ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or basil
In a lg. skillet on med. heat, cook onion in the dressing. When the onions are translucent (about 5 min.), add chicken, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, artichokes, and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil, covered, and then reduce to a simmer. Stir in cream cheese and pasta. Re-cover, and cook pasta for about 10-15 min. (or until soft). Stir in the parsley/basil.
*Cooked pasta could also be added to the sauce, in order to skip the step of cooking it all together.

Strength of Today

Today was another day when I realized my strength as a mother. You never see those days coming, no matter how many you’ve had. The morning starts the same, as you wake up and scurry out of bed—the day’s plans filling your thoughts.
Today seemed easy. There were no set plans, other than trying some new recipes. Kayden had a field trip so I knew he was looking forward to that. Quentin would be home late so I figured that the boys and I would spend some quality time together.
Today, Jesse woke up sick. I sent him to bed, hoping that he would be feeling better. He threw up twice after that, and I knew that I was going to have difficulty getting Kayden to school. My husband could not come home, and family is not close. Kayden was looking forward to his field trip so I took to Facebook to plead for his transportation to pre-k. After stressing for a bit, I was saved by Kayden’s former teacher. I was so grateful that someone could help, and I raced around the house to get some cleaning done before she arrived. I thankful to learn that she would also bring him home.
Today, my house is doused in Lysol. The smell is permeating through the house, as I spray everything Jesse comes in contact with. My fingers are crossed that I will not get the illness, as my job at home cannot be replaced. I struggle to show sympathy to Jesse but also to keep my distance. Thank God, he seems to be on the mend.
Today, the dog wouldn’t go. I stood outside with her for an extended time, as she sniffed the air and refused to go potty. Today is cold. I stood in capris, flip-flops, and a short sleeved shirt, begging the dog to get it done and over with. The dog finally did her business when I took her out a couple of hours later.
Today, Jesse’s counselor called. He has decided that Jesse needs more counseling and has set up counseling for my ex-husband and myself as well. There will be more 45 minute trips, more copays, and more babysitters to seek out. I’m hoping this will be over with soon.
Today, I broke down. I cried to myself about how stressful life can be, even as a stay-at-home mom. Then, I fixed my makeup.
Today, I looked in the mirror and realized all the tough days that I have made it through…and realized that this is just one more. I see that the afternoon has come, and with it the hours have passed by. Tomorrow will be different. The same unknown as I climb out of bed, but different nonetheless. Another TODAY.

Crockpot Balsamic Pork Roast

2 lbs. boneless pork roast
Kosher salt, to taste
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1/3 cup chicken or veg. broth
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. honey
Season the pork w/ the spices, and place in a slow cooker. Combine the broth and vinegar. Pour over the pork, and then add honey over the top of that. Cook 4 hrs. on high or 6-8 hrs. on low. Pour sauce over the pork toward the end, to add to the flavor.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza

o 1 baked pizza crust
o ½ cup Alfredo sauce
o ¼ tsp. garlic powder
o 1 cup shredded Swiss or mozzarella cheese
o 1 cup cubed, cooked ham
o 10 breaded chicken nuggets, thawed and cut into ½” pieces
o 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 425°. Spread Alfredo sauce on pizza crust, and sprinkle w/ garlic powder and the Swiss or mozzarella cheese. Top w/ ham, chicken nuggets, and mozzarella cheese. Bake 8-10 min., until cheese is melted.

Home, Headaches, and Hearts

Owning a house is stressful. Owning a large, elderly house just adds fuel to that fire. Today, I have been reflecting on our plight with our family home.
We bought our house almost 5 years ago, on Quentin’s birthday. It was the first house we walked through, and we were instantly pulled in. The giant white house, built somewhere between 1918 and 1920 needed a ton of work. But, we dreamed of the potential it could hold. And, boy, have we dealt with our fair share of surprises since we made that decision…
Our house’s previous owner was an elderly woman on her way to a nursing home. As you can probably imagine, there was very little upkeep done on the house during the woman’s debilitation so it was clear from the get-go that there would be some serious concerns to address before we moved in. We were on a tight schedule, as Jesse was to begin pre-k. Also, Kayden was only 5 months old so it was a challenge to juggle him with the repairs that needed completed.
First and foremost was the issue of carpeting. The house had random carpet pieces everywhere, most of which were not attached to the floor. Oddly enough, two of the areas that were fully covered in carpet were the kitchen and bathroom. We knew that that carpeting had to go, and linoleum had to be installed. The other rooms would need to be fully carpeted as well. My dad and Quentin removed the existing carpet and put down linoleum, and Lowe’s installed new carpeting where it was needed.
There were other oddities to our new home, such as the washer in the kitchen and the dryer in the dining room. We created a space in the playroom for our washer and dryer so that it would be in one area and put linoleum under that area as well. The baseboard heat in the kitchen actually went in front of the sliding glass door so that needed to be cut to fit. We moved things around in the kitchen and bought a dishwasher, which was a necessity with the amount that I cook.
There was a ton of junk to be removed. A decrepit flag pole stood in the middle of the yard, which my dad was able to literally break out of the ground. There was a light post decoration standing outside, and an old bell phone in the hallway. Let me tell you about that bell phone: This may have been the very first of many creepy instances in our new house. Quentin and I were upstairs and were the only ones home at the time. He had just torn the old phone out of the downstairs hallway, and our landline had not yet been hooked up. Low and behold, we both heard that bell phone ringing downstairs (where it no longer existed). Quentin and I stopped what we were doing and just stared. There have been many other instances since moving in: The boys have talked about hearing whispers in their bedrooms; lights have turned on; music has played; and we have heard people talking when no one else is there. The boys’ toys go off constantly, when there is no one near them. There has never been a threatening feeling to our home, but the underlying understanding is that we did not move into an empty house!
Jesse chose the room that he wanted, and we decorated it for him. We went with light blue walls and a SpongeBob theme. Kayden went into a smaller room that already had flower wallpaper, as he was still a baby at the time. Since then, he has moved into the SpongeBob room. We have switched our original bedroom with Jesse so that he could now decorate his room in a Mario theme. As our room had a small closet and old doors, Quentin built a new closet in there.
The previous owner had actually left some furniture when we moved in, but we have since replaced the dining room table and kitchen table. We have, of course, added many other new furniture pieces as well. We also replaced the chandelier in the dining room. Speaking of which, many of the rooms did not have ceiling lights so we made do with floor lamps. A ceiling light was added to our living room, when it was completely remodeled last year.
A couple years after moving in, we realized that the roof was beginning to leak so that would need replaced. Instead of the old green color that we originally had, we chose an uplifting blue. Of course, the shutters had to match so we tore those off next. My dad painted them from the old green to blue, and they match the roof perfectly.
We were blessed to have a 3 bay garage to go with the house, but there were no doors on the bays. This was a birthday present to Quentin one year, and he and my dad happily installed them. There is a run-down side door that has been out of use, but we just found a steel door at a rummage sale that will be installed in its place this year (along with steps so that we can actually go in and out that way).
Our porch was covered in dark green, indoor/outdoor carpeting when we bought the house. The rails were wrought iron and rusty, and the paint was peeling. We tore up the carpeting and rails to make do temporarily, but I soon realized the porch would need replaced when my heel went through it! And so, the porch was fully remodeled as well as the deck. We have added a pool as well, which was a present from the Easter Bunny.
With mostly wooded land, we have met a number of bears and other wild creatures that live alongside us. However, with the addition of flower beds, a decorative fence, the boys’ play sets, and a new fire pit, our outdoor area fits us perfectly. Though we try our best to separate ourselves from the wildlife around us, we are constantly reminded that they live here too. A couple of weeks ago, we had the experience of a bird pecking through our ceiling and entering our kitchen light. Quentin and I released the bird and let it out the sliding door without incident, but we learned through the experience of removing that light that the kitchen ceiling had actually been lowered so it was a false ceiling that we were looking at. It’s funny how one thing leads to another in home repairs—either a whole new repair or newfound knowledge of the house.
Our latest occurrence was last week: The carbon monoxide alarm set off upstairs, while I was the only one home. Quentin came home from work early and realized that the cause was the hot water tank failing to run properly. And so, we ended up ordering a new hot water tank. We were lucky enough to have my dad come over to help install it, and now we have a much bigger tank than before.
There is still much to be accomplished with this house. The tasks seem to never end, and we are always busy improving. But, when I look at the home we are developing…I am proud to have made the decision to live here. It is the chaos of this old home that has stolen our hearts.