Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Easiest and Best Chicken you will ever eat!

I told you that this blog was going to be about anything and everything.  Today I want to tell you about a chicken recipe that is my favorite.  

I work 9 1/2 hour days and by the time I get home I am in no mood to cook a big dinner.  And if I don't have a plan we do the "I don't know what do you want for dinner?"  or the, "I don't care whatever you cook." answer.  I like using a crock pot all year long.  It is a great helper for easy cooking.  I make everything in mine from soup to bread!

I forget exactly where I came across this recipe but after trying it once the entire family fell in love and now I make it at least 3 times a month.  It is delicious and easy.

You need a couple of things to make the chicken.

1 whole chicken (I buy them at SAMS 2 for $9.00 or there about).
Any kind of seasoning you want - I switch up the seasonings each time I make the chicken.
Pam or a non stick spray
Crock Pot
Really this is all you need.

This time I used Tuscan Sunset seasoning.  
Now for the directions.  
  1. Spray your crock pot, plug it in and put it on low. 
  2. Clean the chicken well (sometimes whole chickens will have a bag inside with gizzards, livers etc).  I throw that bag away but if you like you can dump those yucky insides in with the chicken.
  3. You can put salt and pepper on the chicken but I don't, that way everyone can put their own salt and pepper on their own servings.  
  4. Season your chicken.  I've done several seasonings and even cooked the chicken with an apple stuffed inside the cavity.  Your choice here, play, experiment and have fun! 
  5. Now put the chicken (boobies down) in the crock pot.  Close the lid.  Yep NO LIQUID TRUST ME! 
  6. Turn the crock pot on low and walk away, you can do it, walk away!  TRUST ME
  7. Cook time is at least 6 hours on low.

Now I will tell you when it is done after the 6 hours the chicken isn't going to be one of those you put on a platter and show off.  It is U G L Y but tender and juicy.  It will fall apart when you try to take it out of the crock pot.  I use big turkey tongs and it still falls apart so have a platter or something right next to crock pot to dump the chicken on.  You can use the juices that the chicken naturally made to make a gravy.  I first pour the juices into a gravy separator (it separates the fat and juices).  I then add that to a small pot with water, a dry packet of chicken gravy and some wondra all mixed together.  I usually serve the chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans, that is what my family likes the most.  I've done baked potatoes as well and just thrown the juices away.  

See, it isn't a pretty chicken when it is done but it's TASTY!
I tell you, this is the most juicy, moist, delicious and easiest chicken I have ever made!  With the left-overs (if there is any) I make several things.  My hubby likes open faced hot chicken sandwiches the best but I like to buy a jar Alfredo and boil some noodles or make rice with some cream of chicken soup or make a peanut sauce and put with the chicken.  You will want to use the left-overs, this chicken is crazy good and you just won't want to let any of it go to waste.  

Try it and tell me how you liked it!  I can't wait to hear.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Backyard progress

Well we have started our backyard.  Yes, we could do it ourselves but like I keep telling my husband if we pay someone it will just be done in a few weeks instead of months.  I won!  They started last week and so far we have a nice fence.  I LOVE the fence!  Not only do I now have a limited view of my neighbors aqua and turquoise house but I can't see all the freaky statues and flamingo's in their yard!  BONUS!  When I am down in the yard I can't see their house at all.  Next will be the retaining wall then sprinklers and then sod and then... a YARD!  whoo hoo!  I can't wait.

And the finished fence product!  

Step one, fence - DONE!  I can't wait to show everyone the progress.

The Apple Core, one of my favorite things

Do you know what an apple core is?  Not the kind you eat.  This apple core is one you use to harness all the cords in your life .  They come all sizes for all types of cords.  I use a larger one on my computer cord a smaller one on my cell phone cord and a really small one for my IPOD/Kindle cords.
They are shaped like an apple core with a slit on each end to wind your cord through, wrap it around the middle and back out the other end.  They are made of rubber and I just love them.  Like I said I use them for computer cords, cell phone cords, IPOD cords and Kindle cords.  They aren't that expensive and I found mine at Batteries Plus.

Here one is in use.  I really like them, they really work to contain all those long cords!  By the way, do you like my nails?  It's like a party on my hands AND they glow in the dark!  BONUS

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Food Labels

I have been working on a lifestyle change for about 2 years now.  This isn't about a diet or even loosing weight but about changing my lifestyle.  I am more active and I eat better.  So more activity, less and better food.
Do you read food labels?  I do now and what I've learned has helped me but scared me.
Let's start at the top with the serving size, you'd think that say a can of soup is a serving but if you read the backs of some soup cans there are 2, yep count em' 2 servings in some soup cans.  So the first thing to notice on the labels is how many servings is in the item you are holding.  The next thing to look at is the carbs, protein, fiber and fat grams.  Now remember these amounts are PER SERVING!  So, if your item has 2 servings in it and you eat it all, you've doubled the intake of not only the calorie count but the fat, fiber, protein and carbs.
Another thing to be aware of with labels is that if the amount is less than .05 grams you will see an asterisk or a dash as the manufacturer doesn't have to list it. Some manufacturers will list 0 grams but beware that doesn't mean zero, just less the .05.  It is a loophole in the law.  Also remember that because zero could mean .05 you should still count it by serving!
Next down the label is the ingredient list.  The ingredients listed first are higher in content in the product.
To eat better overall you should limit your sodium (salt), sugars, high fructose corn syrup, nitrates, partially or any kind of hydrogenated oils, preservatives, additives, any artificial anything, carbs and off course, fat.  You should increase you protein and fiber intake to keep you fuller longer.
Want to be scared?  Read this link about poisons in our food.

Labels aren't the only thing to be wary of.  Run from anything labeled 'Natural'.  What exactly does this mean?  Natural simply means that the product has undergone minimal processing or treatment with preservatives. So what does that mean?  What is minimal treatment or minimal processing?  Who knows!
I always look at things and say, 'is this what this looks like in nature?'  Example - chicken nuggets don't look like that originally, either do chicken tenders.  So should I eat them?  Probably not unless I make them myself.
So the moral of this story, read those food labels!

Friday, August 16, 2013

My backyard mess

My backyard is a mess.  Not quite the hot mess like our neighbors behind us but it is a horrible hot mess itself.  No grass, just dirt and weeds.
My husband helps me clean our hardwood floor once a week and a couple of weeks ago he commented about how much dirt and sand there is on them all the time.  I smiled and said, "Well every time the dogs or anyone goes into the backyard they track sand and dirt back in with them and deposit it on my floor."  He looked at me like I had 3 heads!
We use to have grass but it was clumpy and uncomfortable to walk on so we let it die.  In Colorado that doesn't take long over a hot summer.  So for the past 3 years we've had dirt and weeds.  Yes I said THREE YEARS!
I don't know about everyone else but I hate hoses, they always look like snakes in the yard to me!
We also now have tree issues.  This one is pretty much dead.
However, I love that it is a big old tree and when it had leaves it provided a lot of shade and in Colorado we could actually use our backyard in the summer, even mid-day!  You can also see our fence in that picture.  According to our neighbor it was the first fence put up in 1970.  Pretty good craftsmanship back then I guess because while other fences have fallen in the snow and wind this one is still standing!  I do not want to cut this tree down, that and the quote we got was $3,500!  Well it is about 80 feet tall.  I also don't want to cut it down because our neighbors yard behind us is really a hot mess as well.  Weird fences up all over the place, a bathtub full of dirt, weeds that could hide an adult and every kind of garden gnome and other statues that you can think of!  Kinda creepy.  Oh and did I mention that their house is Aqua and turquoise with a red deck?  Yeppers.  But that is the disadvantage of living in an older neighborhood without a homeowners association.
I want grass but we live going up a hill and all the water rolls off into our neighbors yards.  I got the hubby to agree that we need to do something.  Personally, I think he got tired of helping me clean the wood floors of all the sand and dirt that the dogs drag in!  But I'll take it!  So a retaining wall across the back and up the sides a bit and a new fence across the back and the sprinkler system fixed and grass, yes grass. This is all I wanted for this year.  We thought about doing it ourselves but retaining walls are hard people, really hard to put up.  The one we have, we did ourselves and it took a month!
We got several quotes and if you are having a backyard or any yard re-done shop around!  I got quotes ranging from several thousand - $15,000 to a couple of thousand - $6,500.  I looked up everyone's BBB (better business bureau) rating and only dealt with those with a high rating.  I also looked at everyone's web sites to see if I liked their work.  We didn't pick the cheapest but we surely didn't pick the most expensive!  Some people are very proud of their work.
If you look at the picture above you will see that my deck is three different colors, green, beige and red.  I bet you are saying, don't knock your neighbors, you have no room to talk!  Look at your deck!  Look at all those weeds along the retaining wall!  My answer is hey!  The garden is clear of weeds, it looks so pretty and hey I DO NOT have garden gnomes and lots of statues in my yard!  I don't know about you but those gnomes kind creep me out!
I told you our yard is a hot mess!
So this year we will fix the major hot mess.  I will still have the side to deal with and those rocks.  I use to pay my kids $10 a full wheel barrow ($5.00 each) of rocks when they were little.  I still have rocks on the side of the house.
Next year we will try and get more of the rocks out and mulch this area and put steps in as this is a hill and all the gas and electric runs right underneath.  At the bottom I'd like a stone patio leading to a shed.  Maybe by this time next year I'll be able to park my car in the garage!

The side yard with my dead plant.....

I do love my little garden though, it isn't a great as last year but it is still pretty nice and the only bright spot in an otherwise horrible back yard.
Is your yard or do you know someone who's yard is a hot mess?  I bet not as bad as this!
Look here you can see our neighbors behind us and their lovely house colors - notice the trim around the window.
Is it bad that I have wildflowers growing in the middle of my backyard?  Just a bit huh!

 I will keep everyone updated on our yard progress.  It can only get better from here!

Monday, August 12, 2013


I hope everyone had a great weekend.  My goal over the weekend was to replace the old side table/nightstand I have been using for years with a proper nightstand.  My goal was to find something with shelves or drawers and spend under $50 for the entire project (to include the cost of the nightstand, paint and any supplies).
Thanks to my friend John McGraw I had, notice I said had, a very nice nightstand that simply needed some cleaning.  It met all of my criteria, FREE, shelves and oh, FREE!  I picked up the nightstand came home and cleaned it up using a Magic Eraser and Liquid Gold furniture cleaner.  If you haven't ever used a Magic Eraser before this little item that looks like a sponge is a wonder.  It cleans scuff marks, crayon, marker and any number of other things.  I buy them by the case!
Anyway, I cleaned up the nightstand and put it in my bedroom.  I called my daughter in to look at the finished product.  She looked at the nightstand and said, "Mom, it turned out so great!  I LOVE IT!"  she then looked at me and said, "You know my nightstand is broken...."  needless to say I lost my nightstand and was back at square one.  BTW - she loves the nightstand.  THANKS JOHN!
SO back to the hunt.  I checked Goodwill, Salvation Army and several antique stores in town.  I finally ended up at Platte Furniture.  The sell used furniture in varying conditions.  Most of their inventory is slightly used and in good shape.  I found a patio table with 4 chairs for $150 and another set of patio chairs for $20 each.  All they need is a bit of cleaning, some paint and new cushions and they will be good to go.  But back to the nightstand.  I did find one!  Two drawers, long legs and ample display space.  It just needed a little TLC and paint.
I got out my sander and started sanding the existing paint off.  My hubby was out of town and it took me 20 minutes to look through all the tool boxes and boxed items to find the sander.  Luckily it had sandpaper in the box with it otherwise I might still be sanding.  I can tell you that you need to take your time with this step.  Sanding is very important, you need a good surface to put the new paint on.  I didn't remove all the old paint but made sure the surface was smooth.
You need to sand in a well ventilated area, wear old clothes, goggles and use a mask.  You will come out messy!  The next step is to clean the item very, very, very well.  You don't want any film, residue or sawdust on your piece before you paint it.  Using my friend the Magic Eraser, soap and water and a towel to dry everything off with I cleaned off the piece.
Next I primed the piece with white spray paint primer.  I went to my local Ace Hardware to get the spray paint.  I was overwhelmed with the selection.  There are all kinds of spray paint out there, metal finish, speckled, satin, flat, enamel not to mention glow in the dark!  There are also several brands to choose from.   I chose the Rust-oleum brand as the can promised one coat coverage and fast drying time.
If you use spray paint, again make sure you are in a well ventilated area, wear goggles and use a mask.  I put some trash bags down, even on the ground for this step.  The primer worked well and covered the old reddish orange top in just one coat.  The color I chose for the entire unit was called slate blue.  I thought about making the top a different color than the bottom but decided I wanted the entire thing one color.  However, the same brand of color took 2 cans of paint to cover the piece even though it still promised 1 coat coverage.  If you have never spray painted before just make sure you shake the can well and shake it often.  Hold the can about 10 inches away from the piece and go in a back and forth motion until you have the coverage you want.  The best thing is, if you mess up, you can just start over!
The can also promised fast drying, I don't know if is because of the rain we've had lately and it is a bit humid or what but it took 24 hours for the nightstand to dry enough that I could put things on it without them sticking to it.  Not the 15 minutes promised by the can.
In the meantime I went looking for knobs.  I went back to Ace Hardware but didn't see anything I really liked.  I then went to Hobby Lobby.  If you've never checked out Hobby Lobby's selection of knobs, pulls and hinges you should really do it.  I got these little beauties 1/2 price!  You will see they were originally $3.99 each, a bit much but at half price, they beat any other stores prices.  I just love them.
Next once the piece was dry I got to use the drill and make the holes for the new knobs.  Once the hole was drilled in each drawer for the knobs I just screwed them in, attached the included washer and tah-dah DONE!
Now all I need to do it put it in my bedroom!
Ok time to price all of this out.
Used nightstand - $30.00
3 cans of spray paint - $3.50 each = $10.50
Knobs - $3.99 for 2
Total spent = $44.49 (without tax)
Not too bad and right at my budget with tax!  AND I did it on my own, no hubby help!
Have you ever refinished a piece of furniture?  Did it turn out like you thought?  I'd love to hear about it!  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bathroom troubles

So you think you can do a small bathroom update in a weekend?  Well not at my house!  I thought ugh I hate this master bathroom color, far too bright and the paint always looks dirty.  So, I'll paint it over the weekend, get a new shower curtain, may be some molding around the window and a baseboard... how much can it cost and how much time can it really take?  Yeah, a long time!

So this is the before:
Ugly blue.  See that surround - picture vinyl flooring on the wall.  U G L Y!  I thought I could paint that, yeah no.  I tried but it peeled off when I took a shower.  So for now I'll just keep hiding it!
We are eventually going to totally re-do this bathroom, we've got nails coming through the drywall everywhere because none of it is waterproof.  So we know we've got mold that we will need to deal with professionally.
So in the meantime I thought, oh I'll just paint, get a new light fixture and some molding - easy huh.  NO!
Let's start with the light fixture.  When we removed the old one the wall behind it was like swiss cheese and the electric box that the wires fit in didn't fit the new light fixture.
A repair to the wall was needed.  I bought this mesh at HD for $2.99.  You fill the holes with the Wallboard Joint Compound.  The tub's start at $12.99.  Then place the mesh over the holes and cover with more of the wallboard.  We didn't care too much about being neat as we were doing texture on the walls.  Otherwise you need to be a bit neat.

Tip:  Make sure you let each coat dry fully before you put on the next coat.  This is important, don't skip this step otherwise you will have a muddy mess on your hands!  Trust me.
We layered and layered and sanded between each dry layer and that took a while, even with a fan blowing on the spot it still took 2 full days just to do this step.

Now onto the textured walls.  If you really want a clean look this idea will not be for you.  If you like the clean look you will need to take the Sheetrock All Purpose Joint Compound, the tub is about $30.00, and fill all the holes in your walls.  Again, you need to let the compound dry fully and then sand, sand, sand.  I decided that I didn't want to fill holes, scratches etc. on the walls and opted to do a texture on walls instead.  My walls were in bad shape and to fill all the problems would take a long time so I opened the drywall compound, got my rubber trowel and went to work.  I just played with the texture, placing a lot of the compound on the trowel and slathered it on the wall.  I tried not to make any sort of pattern opting instead to make it look older and added to over time.
This took a long time to dry, even with the fans blowing on the walls day and night.  I think it took 3 full days to dry.
The next step is sanding, yep sanding, sanding, sanding.  Then you need to clean the walls, wipe them down really well and even vacuum them BEFORE you begin to paint.

Painting.  I used Sherwin Williams, poolside.  SW makes several kinds of paint that start at $32.00 a gallon.  My hubby chose their new 'Emerald' line of paint, guaranteed to repel mold and mildew and paint over anything.  The Emerald line of paint is pricey, SW is very proud of this paint.  I freaked when he told me it was $62.00 a gallon!!  Because of the sheet-rock compound on the walls the little 8X12 bathroom took 2 gallons of paint at $62.00 a gallon, yep that is a whopping $124.00 for PAINT!  But I love, love, love the color.
I also wanted molding, I thought it would make the window seem bigger and bring some interest to the bathroom.  I picked out thick baseboard molding and medium size for the window.  I chose white, the molding was already primed, I figured it would save me a step.
OK - rookie mistake #1:  I didn't paint the molding before we put it up.  Unless you are really a neat painter please don't follow my mistake and paint after you put up the molding do it before.  Now you will have to repaint it once you caulk but you will only need to paint over any caulking.
OK - rookie mistake #2:  Caulk.  This is a bathroom so we got waterproof caulk.  You may think this is a good idea, yeah not so much.  MAKE SURE IF YOU USE WATERPROOF CAULK IT IS PAINT ABLE.  Otherwise you end up with this....

I tried and tried to paint over it and the paint just kept spreading and not adhering to the caulk.  We tried KILLZ brand primer, we tried HD Behr primer, $32.00 a gallon, we tried Lowes Valspar primer, $36.00 a gallon; but in the end SW primer at $38.00 a gallon worked the best. What a mess!
At this point I really just wanted to be done, just done.  We put up the light fixture, $45.00 at HD and I just wanted to shut the bathroom door and never go in there again.
We are well over $200.00 at this point and I haven't even bought towel racks, a window or shower curtain or even hand towels.
Two and a half months later the bathroom is painted and that is about it.  I'll post the final finished product soon, if I ever fully finish it.  This bathroom wasn't cheap for a simple paint job so I've got to save up some money to complete the project.
I hope you've enjoyed reading this post and hopefully have learned what not to do if you try a small bathroom re-do yourself.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My first post! I'm a blogger now!!!

Welcome to Dragonflies and Thistles!

A few things to know.  This blog has nothing to do with dragonflies, though I think they are beautiful and my favorite bug out there.  The blog has nothing to do with thistles other than they are Scotland's national flower and I'm Scotish.

I hope to blog at least twice a week.  I will also have an Instagram account as well as a Twitter account.  I haven't set all of those up yet but I'll let you know when I get there.

Here is my Facebook page, blank right now but I will update soon!  or you can search for me under Dragonflies and Thistles.

I will post my blog updates to my Facebook page as well as photo's of my work.  I promise to share with you the good, the bad and the really ugly!