Frankly My Dear, I Don’t Give a Jam

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jam

I had a strawberry dilemma. Too many strawberries for us to eat. They were on sale, how could I resist that? I had already frozen plenty for smoothies and still had a ton left over. I decided to try something that’s been at the back of my mind. A longing you might say. For what you ask? Jam, crock pot jam. On Pinterest there are many recipes for this glorious breakfast treat. Most require pectin. I was out of pectin and you should know by now I won’t go the store just to pick up one item. I did find one pin that used apples in place of pectin. I just so happened to have an apple handy. As a matter of fact I was going to munch on it while cruising Pinterest. Thankfully I hadn’t taken a bite before finding that pin.

Here is the Crock Pot Strawberry Jam pin.

Here’s the recipe and if you continue reading past that you can read my little strawberry jam session.

Crock Pot Strawberry Jam
Ingredients:
2lbs fresh strawberries, sliced
4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1-1.75 oz box pectin or peeled and slice medium size apple

Directions:
Spray crock pot with non stick cooking spray or line with crock pot liner/parchment paper. Add ingredients into a bowl. Smash/mix until combined well. Add into crock pot. Cover and cook on low for approx 8 hours or high for 4 hours, once strawberries are soft. Pour into your containers. It will thicken as it cools.

My jam session. I halved the recipe, if things went bad with the jam I had only ruined one pound of strawberries. I just threw everything into the crock pot. I like my jam chunky so there was no smashing going on. As I was tossing everything into the pot I was singing, loudly, “we be jamming, we be jamming” This lasted only a minute before I heard my husband shout from the living room, “Shut the hell up my ears are bleeding!” My singing is bad, so so bad. So I laughed at the hubby before continuing with the noise I call singing.
I let the strawberry concoction cook overnight, cooked it on low for nine hours. I planned on eight hours but I overslept the next morning.

sugar berriessugar apple berry

 

When I checked it that morning the ‘jelly’ was more like strawberry juice. It will thicken as it cools but it should have thickened some in the pot. So I turned the pot up to high and let the jam cook for another hour without the lid on. I don’t know if that caused it to thicken I just know that it did thicken up slightly. I poured the mixture into three small canning jars, put the lids on then let the jam cool. It did ‘set’ after it cooled. It wasn’t a hard set like some store bought jams.

 

That night for dinner I made breakfast just so we could try the strawberry jam. As I was spreading it on my bread, my bread whispered, “Oh yeah, spread it just like that. Ahh nice.” Most store bought jams don’t spread so easily and often tear the bread. But not this stuff, it spread so easy.

How did it taste? Amazing. I will never use store bought again. Ever. I put some in the freezer so it would stay good for awhile. Yeah, it was gone in four days. Do yourself a favor and try this crock pot jam thing.

There will be more strawberry recipes coming this summer. Just one mile from my house is a strawberry farm. You can go pick them yourself or get a big ole basket of freshly picked. Actually the strawberry patch is my back up plan. The hubby and I built a wooden strawberry planter late last summer and this year I shall plant my own strawberries. It’s my first time growing them so if it is a disaster the strawberry patch will save the day.

So I’m actually killing two pins with one post. The next pin was once again just a pin with a photo, no instructions. But for this the photo was enough. First before I reveal this pin you must promise to not tell anyone I did this. I am known for my dark soullessness if this gets out my reputation is ruined. I would no longer be able to face the creatures of the night with my head held high.

Since I can’t make you sign something in blood I am going to assume you will keep my undark side a secret. Here is what I did. I made… heart shaped pancakes. Yes I know, I’m as shocked as you are.

This is how to heart your pancakes. Make you batter thinner than you normally do. Pour into a squirt bottle, the kind that restaurants put ketchup and other sauces in. Use that to draw a heart outline then just fill in with more batter from the bottle. Easy as that. This is so easy you will no longer use the phrase easy as pie instead you will be saying, “Well that was easy as heart shaped pancakes.”

heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

I heart pancakes

I heart pancakes

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going to share another secret, this one is okay if you want to share it. I am known for my pancakes. People have came to visit just to get me to make them pancakes.

Gotha’s Somewhat Famous Pancakes
You will need:
A store brand (name brands don’t do as well) complete pancake mix.
1 or 2 eggs, depending on how much batter you plan to make.
Water.
Ground cinnamon.
A little sugar.
Vanilla extract.

I never measure. I’ve been making these over 20 years I have no need to measure at this point. The eggs, if you are making pancakes for two people 1 egg is plenty. More than that 2 eggs will do. Cinnamon, I like cinnamon, a lot. I use a good bit. For most people, a teaspoon should be plenty. For the sugar I just use a spoonful. (What’s a spoonful? Whatever spoon I’m going to use to mix the pancake batter with). Vanilla extract, a cap full. Or just a quick pour from the bottle like I do. Use enough water to make the batter just a tad thicker than thin. Kind of like a cake batter. If it’s like a brownie mix that is way too thick.
That’s it.

Two pins, a pancake recipe and some out of tune singing. It’s all in a days work in the Pinteresting life of Gotha Stewart.

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When Caramels Attack

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Inside this chocolate goodness lurks a surprise

Inside this chocolate goodness lurks a surprise

Last Christmas I did so much baking and candy making for family and friends. When all was said and done I had a few things left over I needed to use. One thing I had was little caramel candies. Honestly I don’t even remember what I used them for originally. They were still there taking up much needed cabinet space.
I remembered a pin where you put a ROLO candy in the middle of a cupcake or brownie before baking. I thought why not use the caramels in the same way? So the plan was simple, bake some chocolate cupcakes with caramels inside as a nice little surprise.
Yeah, pretty thought. Everything appeared to have worked out greatly. I opened one up while it was still warm, oh it looked so heavenly. The hubby and I ate one right away. The others I put some icing on after they cooled.
So after they cooled, icing applied and they sat on the counter for a little bit I decided I needed to eat another one. Did you know that once melted and cooled those damn little caramels get hard again? Hard as a damn rock. Why that did not dawn on me when I came up with the plan, I do not know.
Biting into that soft moist cupcake then hitting that hard sticky piece of caramel. Not a happy moment for me. I’m not going to lie one of my teeth got stuck in that chunk of caramel. I had to run to the nearest mirror and thus began the fight to get my tooth free from that evil caramel. I was in a panic I feared if I yanked that caramel to hard my tooth would come out with it. I envisioned an emergency trip to the dentist where once he asked to see the tooth I would shamefully pull from my pocket that piece of caramel with my tooth embedded in it. That was not going to happen!
I tugged, I twisted, I even tried to talk that caramel from my tooth. Wouldn’t budge. Finally I grabbed the caramel with both hands and yanked as hard as I possibly could. There was a “pop” then it was over. Thankfully it ended well for me. The tooth is still where it is suppose to be. No shameful emergency dentist visit. Whew!
I threw those cupcakes in the trash. I would say lesson learned but I know me I will see some pin, read the directions and decide to try it my way. Once again I will be off on another Pinteresting adventure.

Looks so innocent doesn't it? That caramel is EVIL!

Looks so innocent doesn’t it? That caramel is EVIL!

 

Signs of the Apocalypse

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Last September I stumbled upon this darling spooky Pin. It was a wood post with direction signs to scary locations. I knew I could do this, I just needed a little help from my man.

Halloween Sign from Pinterest:

Halloween sign from Pinterest

Halloween sign from Pinterest

Link to Halloween sign Pin

When will I learn? I have had a few pins go bad over the years, the worst were the ones my husband had a hand in.
Remember the pin where someone dug a little trench along their flowerbeds, lined it with landscape rubber runners then filled the trench with white rock? It looked really good. I showed the picture to my hubby then I began to explain what we needed to do along with the supplies we needed. He put his hand up to shush me, “I got this,” he assured me.
It turned out so bad I didn’t even take a picture of it. I lived for weeks with fear that the landlords would see it and ask us to move. Thankfully it is now covered in grass, all evidence gone…for now.

With the spooky sign I was determined to keep control. Get the wood I needed, along with some paint and stencils for the lettering. Within five minutes of entering Lowes I lost that control. I know where I went wrong, oh if only I could go back in time to warn my delusional self.

I lost control the minute I opened my mouth and asked, “What size boards do you think we need?” What my husband heard was, “please take over this project and dazzle me with your manly awesomeness”.

I wanted to get a small can of paint, we got spray paint. The wood for the sign the hubby decided we would use some fence wood left over from another gone wrong project. The lettering? No stencils for me just black sharpie and bad handwriting.

Let me share with you all the problems with this Pin.
Problem one: well, letting him run the show, obviously.
Problem two: the wood just soaked up the spray paint. I lost count of the cans we used.
Problem three: we couldn’t agree over the destination names. eventually I did win that battle. Bless my evil heart.
Problem four: Sharpie. That’s all I’m saying.
Problem five: see number one
Problem six: coating the sign with a clear sealant. I wanted to do several layers to make this thing last. After all that work I didn’t want the first rain to ruin everything. We did one coat.
Problem seven: I suggested cutting the bottom of the post into a point so we could drive it into the ground. Again I refer you to problem number one.

The hubby could only drive the sign into the ground so far because…wait for it…no pointy end. So every gust of wind knock the damn thing over. All in all it did turn out decent but nowhere near what I envisioned.

wood

Our Halloween sign

Our Halloween sign

 

 

Did I learn my lesson? Yes.
Will crap like this happen again? Sadly yes.
Will I one night smother him in his sleep? No because I need someone to kill spiders and other bugs that invade my space.
Do I love this man? Yes, with all my dead heart. That is why I will still involve him in my projects, he’s my best friend.

So on this Pinteresting adventure the Pin didn’t go wrong, the man behind the plan was the problem. But I wouldn’t change it for anything. We had fun together. In the end, isn’t that what life is about? Going through this world, the good and the bad with the one who has your heart, (even if it’s in a jar buried in the backyard).

My fall display with Halloween sign

My fall display with Halloween sign

Trapped in a Web

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I saw this Pin last fall and wanted to make it so bad. Who wouldn’t want a person trapped in a spider web in their front yard? It wouldn’t be too scary for the neighborhood kids plus it looked so awesome. With the tree I have in my front yard it would be tricky. The branches start close to the ground on my tree making getting close to the trunk difficult. I felt with some strategic moves on my part it could be done.

Picture from Pinterest. Link below.

Picture from Pinterest. Link below.

Spider web Pin link.

Sadly my work schedule picked up causing me to work a whole lot of overtime. I still found time to decorate for Halloween, just not as much as I wanted to. I was able to accomplish one Pin. I will share that at a later date.

But the idea of a victim trapped in a spider web stayed with me. Haunted me you could say. My dark soul longed to witness this. I was getting the twins ready to go hang out on the porch for October. FLASHBACK 4 YEARS AGO:

How I adopted the twins. The hubby and I were at Morris Costume one September day. I needed liquid latex for my zombie make-up and the hubby needed rigid collodion to make horrific scars on his face. We were heading to the check out counter when we noticed these Halloween props. Little demon boys. So cute, I knew there was no way we could afford one so I kept walking to the register. The lady running the register smiled then said, “I noticed you looking at the monster boy props. I don’t know if anyone has told you but we received a whole truckload of those props but the power switch is bad. The props are being sold for $5 each.”
The hubby immediently piped up. “we’ll take one.” he said.
I said, “No, we’ll take two.”
Now we have the twins. Vincent and Boris, our evil boys.
FYI: the switch wasn’t broke. On/off writing was reversed. The boys work just fine.

The twins: Vincent and Boris

The twins: Vincent and Boris

BACK TO THIS PAST FALL:
Vincent is always popping up at the most unexpected places and scaring the crap out of me. The hubby is always moving Vincent around the house when I’m not looking. I hope it’s the hubby doing it anyway.
While getting the twins ready to be in our Halloween display I had an idea. I can stop both Vincent and my hubby dead in their tracks.

Vincent was placed in the ‘time-out’ chair. With the help of some spider webbing, a few thumb tacks and some tape Vincent became a prisoner of the time-out chair. Boris sat on the back porch with a bowl of body parts on his lap.

Vincent in the time-out web chair

Vincent in the time-out web chair

It wasn’t a spider victim trapped in a tree web but I was happy. Next Halloween there will be one in the tree just like the Pin. Even if I have to use a real body.

Until next time remember: You can pin if you want to. You can leave your friends behind. Cause if your friends don’t pin and if they don’t pin. Well they’re no friends of mine.

Now that you have that little ’Men Without Hats’ tune stuck in your head my job is done. Gotha…out.

Dark Days Ahead

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Words to live by: IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO PREP FOR HALLOWEEN

With that being said let me share a little photo from my garden this past Fall. This is one of my all time favorite photos. When I see it pop up as my computer background my normally non-beating heart gives a little jump. I love Halloween, every aspect of it from the whimsical to the horrifying. The hubby and I are renters so I am unable to go all out on my gardening or my Halloween decorations. My landlords are very religious so I must respect their beliefs while celebrating my favorite holiday. In a neighborhood of thirty plus homes my house is the ONLY one decorated for Halloween. Which has all the neighborhood kids coming to look at the yard all October long. Most are young kids so between my landlords and little children I tone down my scary outside decorations. I’m okay with that, the scary is inside my house year round. Just ask my cable guy. He says when he sees my address pop up on the days rotation he is so excited he tells everyone he is going to the “Zombie House”.  Sad that I have so much trouble with my cable that he has to visit regularly. Okay now that I’m done rambling here is the photo.

My Happy Place

My Happy Place

Oh Halloween, how I miss you so.

Back to what today’s blog is about: Halloween prepping. Even though it is only March I use this time to stalk Pinterest for Halloween pins. Costumes, decorating ideas, projects, food, etc. Today I searched Halloween treats. Bite size candy apples caught my attention. There were several pins, I looked at them all. One common theme: everyone was having trouble with the candy coating not sticking to the bites. Seems it would just slip off the apple bites. If I would have had all the ingredients handy I would have tried it anyway. I think maybe caramel would stick better, sadly the only caramel I had was caramel sauce for ice cream. Yes I could have broomed it down to the store to buy what I needed but that would require me to change out of my spooky cupcake pajamas. Wasn’t going to happen.

Now I did have chocolate candy coating items on hand. Apples and chocolate? I have never tried it but I like apples and I adore chocolate. Why not?

What you need:

Apples (I used Granny Smith)

Lollipop sticks

Chocolate for melting (I used Wilton light cocoa candy coating)

Melon ball scoop

Tiny cupcake/candy liners (optional)

Sprinkles (optional)

Wax paper

Here we go:

Wash and dry your apples

Lay out your wax paper on counter.

Use what ever chocolate melting method you prefer. I used the double boiler method. Pot of simmering water with a glass bowl sitting on it.

double boiler method

double boiler method

As the water is heating go ahead and scoop you out some apple balls. Put peel side down, stick in lollipop sticks.

Scoop those apples

Scoop those apples

Once chocolate is melted, get to dipping.

After dipping I put some of the apple bites into the cupcake liners. A few I just sat out on the wax paper and tossed on some sprinkles before the chocolate set.

I was also working on another pin project that required the caramel sauce (holy giant pumpkin that pin turned out awesome).
For the photos I took one of the apple bites in a liner and covered it with caramel sauce. Looked nice for the photos, trying to eat that one caused a major caramel sauce incident. Which resulted in me having to change out of my spooky pajamas and into something not covered in caramel sauce.

Yummy apple bites

Yummy apple bites

Gooey goodness

Gooey goodness

One of the original pins: Candy apple bites

I must say that now having tried apples and chocolate together, I am a fan. I will be adding this to my Halloween line up. I would tell you what the hubby thought of the apple bites but my dad came by and we ate them all before hubby came home from work.

Candy apple bites are not something you should make a day ahead. I would make them a couple hours before any haunted events.

I think I will make these for the family trip to the pumpkin patch this year. I’m sure my little devils would enjoy them as a snack.

So this Pinteresting project turned out very well, very well indeed. I do plan on trying the apple bites with candy apple coating and the caramel coating. I will share that Pinteresting adventure with you.

I will be doing more Halloween prepping pins throughout the next few months. I also have a Halloween pin project from last Halloween to share. See you soon, same Pin time, same Pin channel. (Sorry had a flashback to my young days of watching Batman after school).

A Zombie Apocalypse Easter Egg

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Not a big fan of Easter. To me there is something disturbing about a bunny hiding eggs to lure kids behind bushes with the promise of candy. But I have to put away my Easter Grinchness for the kiddos.

I saw a Pin about string Easter eggs. Some just for decoration and some with treats inside for children. One Pin used a fabric stiffener on the string another used a flour/water mixture. I happened to have flour and water so I went with that Pin.

Here’s the plan.
1: Gather the supplies: flour
water
Bowl
Balloon
String (I used embroidery floss/thread)
Wrapped candy
Canning jar lid (this was not in the original pin but you will want to use this)
what it takes egg
2: Mix flour and water.
3: Cram candy into deflated balloon.
4: Blow up balloon to desired size. Go small.
5: Soak a long piece of thread in mixture.

Okay let’s take a moment. The pin looked like after soaking the thread you just start wrapping it around the balloon. Yeah…didn’t work for me. The thread just kept sliding off the balloon causing a chorus of bad language to spew forth from my mouth. So I spot a canning jar from another pin project. A light bulb moment: the lid will make a perfect stand to hold the balloon.

Revised plan:
6: Sit balloon on lid to free up both hands.
7: Take soaked string and just randomly cover balloon. I was only able to do one side at a time this way. Give the wet section a little time to dry before rotating. Remember once you pop the balloon and remove it you will have candy inside so make sure all your holes are small enough to keep the candy from falling out. You might be asking why I glooped (technical word) so much flour paste on the thread. That was the only way I could get certain parts to stay put.
8: Let it dry.
9: Wait forever to let it dry.
10: Watch Resident Evil while you wait for the string egg to dry.

The messy process

The messy process

So I’m watching one of my favorite Zombie movies while the drying process drags on. While watching I think about this past Fall when I planted a Zombie and Halloween night where I became an Umbrella Corp scientist cooking up the dreaded zombie virus. While we wait for the egg outcome I will share these two projects with you.

Planting a Zombie
While on Pinterest I stumbled upon a cute little pin. It was a little flower pot with a zombie hand planted. I said to myself, “Self, you can do this but it needs to be bigger.” I totally agreed with myself.

Here is the Pinterest zombie planter:

Zombie plant from Pinterest

Zombie plant from Pinterest

Here is mine. Yes it is true. Bigger is better.

My Zombie planter.

My Zombie planter.

Unleashing the Virus:
Every Halloween I dress as a zombie. Do my own make-up. Go to work covered it latex pieces I made with itchy blood and make-up on. So I awake at 4 a.m. to apply make-up. Wear make-up until eleven that night, sometimes even later. This Halloween I decided that was more then I wanted to commit to. So If I wasn’t going to be a zombie I was going to be a zombie creator. Off to Amazon I went, a week later my lab coat arrived followed by my Umbrella Corporation patches. A little ironing, some safety glasses and a security pass…Ta-da! I am a scientist that creates the zombie virus that wipes out mankind.

Resident Evil scientist costume

Resident Evil scientist costume

So for the moment you have been waiting for, the Pin outcome.

Getting candy out of a balloon that’s in a string egg is not a fun time. I tried to cut the balloon in half to get the candy out in doing so I managed to cut the wrapper off of one the candies. It seems flour paste was not a great choice. The string was now a dull flour coated mess. The egg is fragile, handle with care. I do not have any photos of the balloon removal process. It was late at night and all my concentration was on not breaking the damn egg. Somehow during this time I fell over the kitchen chair.
The crashing noise woke the husband, he raises his bald head off the pillow and asks, “Is someone attacking you?”
“No.”
“Good cause I wasn’t getting out of this warm bed to come save you.”
That people is true love at its finest.
In his defense if I was being attacked by a person and not an evil chair he would have helped me fight off the attacker…I think.

The eggish thing I made

The eggish thing I made

I used the four/water method because I did not have any fabric stiffener. Going to buy some for just one little project is just insane. Would I do this project again? Sure if I ever have some spare stiffener lying around.

Now I have this pack of balloons looking at me, begging to be used. I have the perfect Pin for those bad boys. So off on another Pinteresting adventure I go. Until next time, may the Pin be with you.

Evil Queen Apple Cobbler

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Evil Queen Apple Cobbler

So this week is zombie apocalypse week at our house. You know after a while your cabinets get overcrowded with canned and boxed foods. When that happens here at the crypt we have zombie apocalypse week. Which means we survive on what we scavenge from the cupboards. Everyone should do this every so often to keep things up to date. Canned food does have an expiration date. You don’t want to be suffering from a terrible cold one day only to discover that the only can of chicken soup you pull out of the cabinet is out of date. Been there, not fun. Not at all.

So for the rest of the week the husband and I will survive on soups, tuna, vegetables and what ever boxed meals are hiding out. Maybe use up some of the frozen meat from the freezer too. We are about to enter the danger zone: the place where too much salt intake is just one can of green beans away. It’s really not as bad as it sounds. You learn to be creative with your meals. Did you know crushed up cheez its make a great topping for pasta salad?

Tonight we dined on canned potatoes, a huge can of green beans with a hearty black bean soup. Not the best meal we have ever had but still better than a fast food burger. Dessert was an awesome apple cobbler I baked. Breakfast tomorrow will be pumpkin banana bread. So today’s tally of pantry items used: two cans of potatoes, one can of green beans, two cans of black bean soup, a can of pumpkin puree, a box of pumpkin bread mix and a half bag of unused cake mix. I’ll explain the cake mix in a minute. I also used up four apples that were on the verge of mutiny and two extremely over ripe bananas. Lunch for work tomorrow: The husband will be taking canned Ravioli and I will take pasta salad. Two more items gone. I have two jars of spaghetti sauce, so tomorrow nights dinner will be meatballs cooked in the sauce. With some canned veggies for side dishes. Followed by a nice big ole blueberry muffin. I have several boxes of those. They were on sale last month, I couldn’t resist.

I am going to share with you a secret about baking a cake from a mix. When you grease and flour you pans…..drum roll…..wait for it….use some dry cake mix instead of flour. You don’t have to worry about your baked cakes having that floury taste along the edges. I just keep a bag of mix in a baggy, using it to flour the pan whenever I’m baking cakes. Tonight’s half bag along with the four need-to-use-soon apples gave birth to this amazing cobbler recipe I’m about to share, called Evil Queen apple cobbler. Why is it called that you ask? Apples make me think of evil queens and their poisonous ways. I just adore evil queens. I think it’s because they wear so much black.
I did not have enough apples to fill up my cake pan or pie dish so I used two small bread pans. The amounts aren’t set in stone.

Evil Queen Apple Cobbler

4 apples, peeled and cut to bite size pieces. I used granny smith apples.
Butter, 8 tbsp-ish (for the filling)
Butter, 2-4 tsp for topping, softened
Cinnamon (to your taste)
2 packets of Truvia (or sugar, 2 tsp)
1 cup of white or yellow cake mix

Since I used aluminum pans I did not butter the pans. If using metal be sure to butter the bottoms of the pans. I peeled and chopped the apples. I put down a layer in each pan. Put two ‘dollops’ of butter down. Sprinkled half a packet of Truvia and sprinkled cinnamon. I like a lot of cinnamon, again use as little or as much as you prefer. Add another layer of apples, butter, Truvia and cinnamon.

Layer 1 and 2

Layer 1 and 2

Now in a bowl combine your cake mix and softened butter. Start off with 2 tsp of butter. You are making a crumble type topping. You don’t want a batter. Add more butter if needed. This should be dry enough where you can apply the topping with your hands.

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

I then popped those little pans of happiness in the 350 degree preheated oven on a baking sheet. Since the apples are fresh bake forty to forty-five minutes. Test apples with a fork to see if they are cooked through. If you are using a canned pie filling thirty minutes of cooked time should be enough. I served my cobbler in a dish with ice cream. My husband just ate his out of the pan. Again the amounts are not set in stone. If you want more sauce in your cobbler add more butter between your layers, if you want it sweeter add more Truvia or sugar.

Baked

Baked

Time to eat !

Time to eat !

Once zombie apocalypse week is done and the cabinets are bare or almost I am going to try a pin I saw about slow cooking everyday. The pin is linked to a site where your are given list and instructions to prepare a weeks worth of meals. We shall see how that turns out. I also have a pin I am dying to try out. If it works my husband will worship me till his dying day. So come on back and share in the Pinteresting life of Gotha Stewart.