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Auntie Christine’s Household Hints! #2 – Vinegar!

Alrighty friends and neighbors! Short and sweet today – we have another handy household hint from Auntie Christine’s Heinz’s vinegar books!  Aunt Chris bought me a series of these handy household hint books written by Christine Halvorson. They’re filled with great, practical ideas to use everyday pantry items (vinegar, salt, baking soda) in great ways around the house!

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Remember, this is your regular, run of the mill white vinegar that you buy at the grocery store!

Today’s hint is if you have an ink stain on a carpet, rug or piece of clothing, you should blot the ink spot immediately (of course).  THEN, spray the area with HAIR SPRAY! Yes.. that’s right, bust out your can of “Beautynet” or whatever kind you use, and go to town. The hair spray should dissolve the ink spot and once it’s completely gone, work a solution of half white vinegar and half water to completely remove any residual spray!

A Chocolately, Pumpkiny TWO Ingredient HUG

Who doesn’t like two ingredients recipes? Seriously, I’m always curious about these ideas. I read the “recipe” and ask myself………. “really?”

Like, “Could it BE just that easy??”

Ok, I didn’t actually ask myself that. I just thought “Hey, seems like a cool idea that I need to try”.

I’ve tried other minimal recipe desserts before like THIS one. Oh, and  remember the CHEATER COBBLER? That one as was a two ingredient recipe as well. Both of those recipes turned out pretty damn well, I have to say. ESPECIALLY the Cherry Chocolate Cake. Oh lawdy, was it good!

So in the spirit everything pumpkin this season, I bring you another two ingredient, Thanksgiving/fall/pumpkin themed type recipe that seriously makes you want break out the sweat pants and fuzzy slippers, and get ready for the coming hibernation.

Alright! First up, here’s your ingredients!

One Chocolate Brownie Mix (any brand you prefer)
One 15 ounce can of Canned Pumpkin (or Pumpkin Pie Filling)

That’s it! I know, it’s easy isn’t it? I love easy!
(don’t go there.)

Moving on, here’s the photo of the ingredients:

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*NOTE: In the photo above, you’ll see that I bought the 540ml (18 ounce) can because that’s all they had. I weighed 15 ounces and it came to roughly 3/4 of the can.  Please keep this in mind when making your own, and adjust according to the can you buy.

Here’s how you do it!!

1. Preheat your oven to 350!

2. Empty the box of brownie mix and about 15 ounces of the pumpkin pie filling into the cake mix and mix together.

I know, pretty difficult so far, right?

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3. Now, you don’t need it, but I happen to seriously love anything pumpkin spice.

So you can add up to a teaspoon of pumpkin spice to the mix to “make it sing”

( I DESPISE that term, but it’s really the only word I thought appropriate to explain what I”m trying get across).

So I added 1/2 a teaspoon.

Twice. :)

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4. Next, pour the mixture into a parchment lined 9 x 9 or 8 x 8 pan. No parchment?

No problem!

Grease the hell outta the pan, and you’ll be fine.

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So the recipe that I followed which is here, calls for baking the brownies for 25-30 minutes until set. I found that I had to double that time to make it work, so you might wanna keep an eyeball  on the pan just to make sure it’s baked thoroughly. No one likes raw brownie dough…… I think anyway. Maybe it’s like a raw cookie dough concept?  Meh, not for this chick – I like my baked desserts… BAKED.

When a toothpick or knife inserted comes out clean, you’re good to go.

Let cool COMPLETELY before you decide to frost or sugar these babies.

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Ok. So let me tell you, this isn’t your typical brownie. It’s more dense, and has a soft pumpkin flavor mixed with the chocolately goodness of the brownie. Be warned though, my gorgeous reader. If you like the flavor of chocolate, this chocolate brownie with the chocolate frosting can quell any chocolate craving you might have. HOWEVER, the denseness of these brownies from the pumpkin seem to almost intensify the chocolatey taste to the point that well,… it’s teetering on craziness.

I ADORE chocolate, and ONE small brownie with the frosting was enough to lull me into sweet, dreamy chocolate land, where one might be tucked into their chocolate bed and given chocolate kisses and yummy chocolate hugs sprinkled with warm pumpkin spices.

Yes. It’s like that.

JUST like that.

Yeaaahhhh.

Aunt Christine’s Household Hints! – VINEGAR!

If anyone knows me personally, (and I know those who don’t, I do believe you’re missing out..), they would most likely know who my Aunt Christine is as well. I grew up in the country, a half mile away from her, and spent hours upon hours at her house  playing with my cousins when we were kids. Now, as an adult I still adore her (possibly more than when I was a child), and as anyone who knows her can attest, she’s one of the most generous people I know.

Now keep in mind, generous comes in many different ways with her.  For instance, every time I go south to the States she comes over and gives me some “funny money” (US Dollars) that she had just “hanging around”. When she comes across a great deal somewhere, instead of buying one, she’ll buy a few and end up giving me one of whatever it is. For my last birthday, she bought me a purple wig. Yep… I don’t know why either, but she’s great that way! I mean come on, who gets a purple wig AND a helium “Happy Birthday” balloon that sings the birthday song to you whenever you punch it???? I loved it!!

Ok, so moving on. At some point a year or so ago, she came over and gave me a super cool series of small books that she bought God knows where. They are basically 3 separate books on different uses for household vinegar, baking soda, and salt. Alright, obviously these hints aren’t exactly MY AUNTIE’S HINTS as the title of this blog post suggests, because the vinegar book is actually written by Christine Halvorson (NOT my Aunt Christine) but I kinda like the idea that she gave me the books, so it seems like they came from her…. like my logic?

Here’s the vinegar book:

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The books have a bit of a retro/vintage type of look to them, and are full of super cool little “hacks” or hints, to make life easier, and cost effective.The book suggests using Heinz’s brand name vinegar, however, I’m SURE any brand name of vinegar would work if not your not feeling fancy. Just be sure it’s the 5% acidity kind.

So, I thought when times are a bit slow around here (aka, I have nothing new to post), you, my dear readers, will get a handy dandy hint or two on how to use one of these household staples in ways that you may not have ever dreamed of! Well perhaps you may have heard of a few of these, but you can always pass the info (as well as this blog post..ahem) onto someone who might not be in the know. That way, you could be the hero for the day and be a smartypants ALL AT ONCE!

Win win!

So, we shall commence the schooling with the household vinegar tips. For the most part, these tips are referencing your run of the mill, white, grocery store bought, 5% acidity vinegar. A few tips will use apple cider, but that will of course, be prefaced.

Ok. Here’s two handy hints to get us started:

For cleaning your microwave:  If you microwave is dirty and greasy with old food particles and other grossness, microwave a glass container with one cup of water, and a 1/4 cup of vinegar for about 3 to 4 minutes. After the microwave is finished, leave it there for about 10 minutes without the opening the door. Then, open the door and simply wipe clean!

Laundry: If you add 2 cups of vinegar to the rinse cycle while washing cotton or wool blankets, it will remove any soapy residue and leave the blankets smelling clean (not of vinegar), soft and fluffy!

If you have any uses for vinegar, let me know and I’ll post them here!

If you’re interested in buying these books, here’s a place you can:
http://www.amazon.com/Heinz-Distilled-Vinegar-Helpful-Household/dp/141271365X

Nothing Rhymes with Tutti Frutti for Breakfast.

My BFF and I had tons of catching up to do after my fabuloso trip to AZ, so we thought we’d do that over breakfast. Wanting to try a new spot, she suggested Tutti Frutti.  Hey, I didn’t name it folks and for some reason, it reminds me of a cooler, cuter sister to Cora’s.

Relatively easy to find in a new area of the Park and it wasn’t busy considering it was a sunday morning. Decor is nice, a mixture of booths and tables and we were seated almost immediately upon walking in. The menu is already at  your table, so we could get right to work on ordering our grub. Our waitress was friendly and new, and every question she didn’t know, she went to find out and came back with answers pretty damn quick. This impressed me.

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I ordered the Raspberry Crisp : crunchy french toast topped with english cream & raspberry coulis and Kim ordered “Entre les deux” : french toast sandwich with egg, ham & swiss cheese plus lots of fresh fruit.

So first up, my Raspberry Crisp (and a side of bacon, cuz breakfast is a waste of time without bacon).

Here’s the Raspberry Crisp French Toast pic:

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So at first peep it looks pretty awesome, right? Yeah!….. well, kinda yeah.

One small problemo.

See, Kim and I were sharing our breakfasts so we could both taste what each other ordered. So I gave Kim the first two pieces of toast. Look at the picture again, and imagine it for a second folks with the top two piece of toast missing off the plate. What am I left with? Two pieces of french toast with NO topping… ok, very little topping. The cream and raspberry coulis were decorating only the very top quarter of the toast that was underneath the first layer.

Pas bonne people, pas bonne.

I asked for extra coulis and cream so I could actually get a proper idea of what the breakfast should be like. The toast had a really nice crunch to it (dipped in panko maybe?) and the raspberry coulis was SUPER fresh tasting. The cream added an extra rich touch to it. My biggest complaint about the dish is that the portion size was geared for Godzilla. Honest to God folks, who eats FOUR pieces of TEXAS TOAST for breakfast??????? So, a heads up to you, my dear reader – This dish is EASILY shared between two people.

I asked for crispy bacon on the side:

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It was waaay crispy. Like, crumble apart crispy.

Too crispy for me, but if you think I waved a dismissive hand to it, you’d be wrong. I ate that too crispy bacon because the bacon bible says it would be a sin to leave it uneaten.

Kim’s French Toast Sandwich (with a side of fried bologna):

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If you’re thinking that the “french toast” part of the sandwich doesn’t look very french toasty, you would win the prize. This apparent french toast was not eggy like the french invented it to be. It was like toasted bread with ham and swiss on it.

Oh..Ummm, I think they call that  A TOASTED SANDWICH???

Not impressive.

The fruit on the side was fresh and plentiful and the fried bologna was good as well, according to Kim. Who doesn’t like fried bologna? If you don’t, you should. You really really should.

All in all, the service was great but I found the prices were expensive for the quality of the food, to be honest. I’m cheap, but my breakfast with coffee, tax and tip was almost $21.00. For that money, I expect better quality for BREAKFAST food, folks.

Would we come back? We both agreed that we would, but we wouldn’t stand in line if it was busy and we would definitely share a main breakfast dish with a side order of something to supplement.

Tutti Frutti Breakfast and Lunch on Urbanspoon

Is Common Ground Cafe……. common?

Common Ground Cafe
50 Brentwood Blvd Sherwood Park, Ab

My friend and I decided to try out Common Ground Cafe on a recent friday for lunch. She had already eaten, so it was just me who would try out the tasties.

The decor is SUPER cute.  A cute little “foyer” of sorts greets you when you arrive and they have on locally made crafts for sale.  QUALITY stuff, folks.  Btw, the purses/bags they have on display there are KICKASS BEAUTIFUL! I wish I would have got the name of who makes them, but I didn’t. You’ll have to just get your ass in there to check them out yourself.

Tables are topped with re-claimed barn wood, all rustic and warm feeling, and even the chairs have little crocheted socks on them!

Table Table2

Yeah, ok, who cares that the little socks are so the feet of the chairs don’t scratch the floor, it’s a cute touch!  The art on the walls showcase local artists that incidentally, like the purses and jewelry, are also for sale. Trust me when I say (cheap ass that I am) they are selling them TOO CHEAP! The art is really, really reasonably priced people. I was impressed with both the quality and the price.

Art

The menu is somewhat limited, (they don’t offer everything under the sun), but that being said, there are plenty of things to choose from. You can have everything from healthy rolled oats or a bagel with cream cheese, biscotti (regular and gluten-free), muffins, cookies, brownies, etc. They usually feature 3 or so soups for lunch and offer a nice selection of coffees and teas, along with locally made specialty drinks (Honey Spice brand) and sodas.

So I ordered a London Fog tea. This is a newly re-discovered beverage for me.  I remember drinking them back in my twenties when I thought I was more awesome than I’d EVER be when I was my …. 40’sh… age now.

Turns out, I’m crazy awesome now. (Take THAT, 20-year-old me!)

Anyway, this drink is Earl grey tea made with steamed milk, and a dash of vanilla syrup. Simple, but ohhh SO good! I’ve seen recipes where they recommend steeping the tea with a few lavender buds, but I have yet to try that. The tea that was made for me had a perfect sweetness to it, a nice vanilla hint that didn’t overtake the taste of the tea, and a nice thick, milky foam on top.

Comforting like a blankie hug.

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you.

So comforting in fact, I had two.

I ordered their Lazy Perogy Casserole soup. Yeah.. I know… casserole or soup?? Hey… I’m always up for a mystery, so I tried it.

Here are the photos, take a peek:

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Doesn’t look that appetizing does it? Looks thick and heavy.  Well let me tell you, I’m half Ukrainian people, and a self-professed Perogy Snob, so that automatically extends to a Lazy-Perogy snob. That being said, this ……. soup?, was INCREDIBLE.  The rich flavor of a super cheesy casserole with pasta was dilectable! There was a slight crunch from onions that were cooked, but not strong tasting that added a nice textural component.  I was really surprised at just how much flavor this little bundle of happiness possessed. (AND FILLING – Don’t let the portion size fool you!)

If it were me making it, the only changes that I would do to make it out of this world, insanely good, would be to loosen the mixture a tiny bit more with cream… (listen, calories/shmalories, go big or go home), a dash or two of dill, and upon serving, a nice little sprinkle of bacon. But that’s just me and my snobby ways.

I WILL order this dish again.

I have to add, everything on their menu is REASONABLY priced, ($4.50 for the soups WITH a biscuit!). It’s almost bordering on stealing.

Ok… NOW to the best part.

The special part about this little sweet gem of a cafe people, is that they are a not-for profit establishment.

I KNOW RIGHT????

The whole concept is to build a stronger sense of community within Sherwood Park and it’s run by volunteers.  This is a whole new idea that Sherwood Park hasn’t seen before, and really goes against the grain of what most businesses are all about. However, not only are they providing Sherwood park with a greater sense of a community connection, I think unknowingly, they are also selling an experience within the cafe. When you normally spend your money in any other establishment, you really don’t think anything  about it. But with Common Ground, the prices are so reasonable, it’s not for profit, so you actually FEEL GOOD spending your money there. The food and goods they sell are quality products, the volunteers are charming and sweet, there are lots of opportunity to share community ideas and events at the front foyer. The chairs and tables are comfortable with some sofa chair type seating as well that’s perfect for that catch up convo with your friends, they have a stand of game boards and children’s books if your interested, AND they have a free wi-fi.

What more can you want?

So how common is Common Ground Cafe?  Turns out, not common at all.

And it’s a very good thing.

Get out there, meet your neighbors, and at the very least, support this truly wonderful cafe.

It’s worth it!

CTV news came out and did a feature on them. Click the link to check it out!
http://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=307720

My Lake Chalet

Lake Chalet
Seafood Bar and Grill
1520 Lakeside Drive
Lake Merritt, Oakland

(Guest review for Forkin’ Foodie by Chris Davis)

And good day to you fellow Foodies!!

When you watch a ton of food shows you know they’re
ALWAYS going to end up in the San Francisco Bay area at some point in time and rest assured they always miss a
few gems. Most times it’s because they stick to the pretensions of the slightly snobby places that serve vichyssoise
for $20 per bowl.

Sorry, but there’s no cold potato soup worth that much……….EVER.

Oakland gets a bad wrap with a high crime rate, terrible cops, and the Raiders. But it’s actually a nice place once you open your eyes.
And that brings us to dinner at Lake Chalet.

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Off the bat it sounds like something you’d need a three-week advance
reservation at, but alas you’d be WRONG. Nestled on the newly remodeled section of Lake Merritt
in downtown Oakland you’ll see it. Oh and regarding the MASSIVE oak tree that was blown over
in a storm a few months ago, you may look at it like an eyesore but it actually gives a little character to see
the roots, which then leads to a deeper meaning… (yeah Oakland is kinda like that).

Now onto the location – I’ve come here a few times before to hear a band play on the back deck which is right on the water. There’s
pretty sweet happy hour pricing and they carry a wide variety of booze and wines. The raw bar is stocked with some of the
freshest oysters the coast has to offer and the drinks are excellent.

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I went last night for dinner with some family and decided to get something different, right up until I saw somebody with the same thing a couple of tables away. First was the Buttermilk Calamari with an aioli and wasabi cocktail dipping sauce. I’m not a fan of wasabi so I
nudged it to the side. As a main plate I ordered the Pork Short Ribs (Secret Spice Rub, Sticky Glaze, Peanuts, Sesame Seeds), Parmesan Kennebec Fries, and a house salad. This was all was held down with a bottle of Chimay Red label ale.

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SIDENOTE: As an avid foodie and cook , it seems by what feels like divine reason, I dissect nearly everything I eat. That’s the great
part about eating out. It’s that you have a great dish, and either take it back home to re-create it, or you simply do it from
memory (when it’s JUST that good that a to-go box is not possible). So if you see me with a perplexed look on my face
just know that that’s my inner scientist look, and I’m just trying to figure out what the dish is comprised of, as to reinvent it at home.

Service here for a lightly busy Sunday evening was pretty good. The waitress was a bit flighty and I felt like she was rushing but who
knows what other tables had given her Hell before she got to us, so we were nice.

The calamari comes out and was pretty basic.
A simple buttermilk dredged selection with a dusting of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.

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After a few minutes the rest of the food came to the table and here is where I knocked them a point. In any simple situation, the salad, when ordered with a full other plate is treated as an appetizer. Therefore, when I ordered the salad, it should come out along side whatever appetizer was ordered, in this case the calamari. So as everything else is being dished out I’m bombarded with now three plates, as the fries and ribs are plated separately.

The salad is a simple mix of greens tossed in a vinaigrette, with pears and goat cheese.

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The fries were something I was slightly disappointed in, as the description indicated a Kennebec potato and turned out to be something straight out of a bag that I could have gotten at any burger joint, but the parmesan was a nice touch.

Now onto the real shining star of the night:

The Pork Spare Ribs.

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Of all the reviews I normally do it’s generally a barbecue place because it’s my main love. I ordered the starter size because I wasn’t going to sit there and go crazy on a full rack. So the three come out with a nice cilantro garnish with sesame seeds. The smell is AMAZING; it’s a spicy and sweet smell that catches you first, and then you grab one…..

I barely had two fingers on it when it just fell apart at the touch. That’s the sign of a good rib. After the first taste of the glaze I was hooked. Pull-apart-tender, with a spicy, almost Sriracha and hoisin taste  with maybe a hint of honey. These were worth the wait and something to come back for on the return.

Overall this is one of Oakland’s gems and a place that I can call a regular spot. I visit mostly in the spring and summer,
when the freshest produce and seafood is put on display and in the menu.

Happy Chowing folks!!!

Chris Davis

Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Million Dollar Thighs. Oh Yeah!

Yep….. I got’em.

Million Dollar Thighs!

Creamy white and juicy.

Meaty with that nice caramelized crust on top.

Huh?… What?…. Sigh.

Get your head out of the gutter, you perverted puppies! I”m not talking about MY thighs…..

…although I kinda wish I was.

NO no, my lovely readers. I’m talking about a recipe that I found on YOUTUBE, called Million Dollar Chicken, done by Chef John on his Food Wishes channel. (link below). I LOVE this man’s recipes, but his sing-song-happity-hap voice makes me want to drive rusty nails into my ears with a ball peen hammer for relief.

ANYWAYYY… he uses a whole chicken, but I had only thighs on hand, and you know how cool I am, I just subbed thighs instead. I’m sure you could use whatever chicken pieces struck your fancy, but be sure to adjust cooking time.

What makes it worth the Million Dollar name? Chicken, cream, lemon, fried bread… need I say more?

Trust me beauties, this little dish will literally blow your whole daily caloric/fat allowance to cholesterol hell in one little sitting… but it will be sooooo worth it.

Here we go!

bread

Use an old bagette or any other stale, day old bread. It MUST be day old, and kinda hard and crusty, or you will cry at the mushy, gross pablum-ness of it all. Oil your dish before placing a few pieces down. According the recipe, it asked to oil the top of the bread as well, but really, don’t. I did, but found you don’t need it.

Save the calories, honey.

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The recipe asked to stuff the bird with thyme, garlic and lemon and then season with salt and pepper. I sprinkled a few pinches of thyme  and the zest from one lemon, garlic and S&P on top of the thighs to achieve the same taste. My way is soo much easier I think.

He puts the bird in a super hot oven (450) for an hour. I put my thighs in at 350 with an idea to roast them for 45 minutes or so.

While your waiting, make your sauce to smother those little cute thighs.

sauce

I used 1/2 cup of creme fraiche, lemon zest, the juice of one lemon, one GRATED shallot (that’s what the weird thing is that you see floating around in the cream), salt and pepper. The recipe called for one teaspoon of Aleppo pepper, that I COMPLETELY FORGOT to add in. And.. truth be told, I didn’t have any fancy shmancy Aleppo pepper anyway. But, assuming you won’t be a moron like myself, you’ll want to add the Aleppo pepper into the cream mixture at this point. If you don’t have Aleppo pepper on hand (who does, really?), an alternative to use is 3 parts sweet paprika to one part cayenne. Thanks Friend Kim and Chef Simon for the alternative pepper recipe!

At the 20 minute mark, move the chicken out of the way, and tong those little pieces of toasty love over to brown on the other side, and replace the chicken on top the bread……..

toasted bread

…..and then baste the living crap out of your chicken. Go overboard on the basting. If, while you’re basting, you think ‘oh that’s enough’, no, it’s not. Baste some more. Throw it back in the oven for ten minutes.

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Ten minutes later, baste again and return for another 10 minutes.

At the last five-minute mark, throw on your flame thrower. If you are not skilled at using a flame thrower on your food – your broiler will do as well. Watch it like a hawk people, burnt bird is just so wrong.  When it gets all crusty and caramelized on top, take it out, and let it sit for a few minutes.

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Plate it up!!!

If there is extra sauce left over, slice the thighs a bit and arrange them on the bread, and pour the remaining sauce over the thighs.

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Sweet Mother of baby Jesus. The way this tastes is nothing short of beautiful, if it can be described that way. The thighs are super nice and juicy with a crunchy skin, and it loves up it’s best friend, the crunchy toasted bread. Salty tings from the seasoning and lemony twangs from the zest-infused sauce on a crunchy, but soft toasted bread that’s saturated with a chickeny-cream goodness, is delectable. It might even make your inner fattie, or I mean foodie, scream with glee.

So, if after eating this little bundle of everything right in the world,  you haven’t passed out in a creamy caloric induced snooze,
be sure to comment below or click the button to follow my blog! You’ll get a fan’freakin’tastic email ever single time I post something new!

Come on now,.. don’t be chicken! (haha……………….ha.)

Youtube link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHw67wim0Vk