Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Chocolate Covered Strawberries


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 Chocolate Covered Strawberries.....this is how I spent my morning on Valentine's Day. My three grandchildren have gotten accustomed to getting chocolate covered strawberries on certain holidays so today I got an early start!

I picked up (or my husband did) four quarts of strawberries and went to work. First thing of course is the wash the berries and let them drain. You want to make sure the berries are dry, so pat them gently with a paper towel.

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 While the berries are drying, you can prepare your chocolate. I used one bag of chocolate chips and 4 T of Crisco. I use the kind that come in a bar and you can just slice off 4 T.

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Place the chocolate chips and Crisco in a double boiler if you have one. I have one, but it wasn't handy so I used a small sauce pan and placed it in water.

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You want your sauce pan to be deep enough that the boiling water doesn't splash up into your chocolate. And if the pan is small, you'll have deeper chocolate to dip into. Bring the water to a boil, then turn it down to just where it's gently boiling.

Let the chocolate chips and Crisco melt. Stirring occasionally. You can also melt them in your microwave too. While your chocolate is melting, set up a place to put your strawberries once they are dipped. Ideally, you can use toothpicks to dip your strawberries with, and then stick the strawberries upside down on a piece of Styrofoam and they can cool without having a flat smudge on them. No Styrofoam here, so I fixed an area on the counter top with waxed paper.

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Once everything has melted, you're ready to dip.

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To get the berry ready to dip, pull the leaves back out of the way a little.

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Hold the berry by the leaves and dip into the chocolate. Again, you can use a toothpick, but to me, this helps keep the leaves from getting chocolate on them.

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Place the berry on the waxed paper for cooling. Continue dipping starting with your largest berries first.

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As your chocolate dwindles down, you may have to use a spoon to dip the chocolate and drizzle over the berries. These won't be quite as neat as the first ones, but they are easily camouflaged with candy sprinkles. What kid doesn't like candy sprinkles!

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The one bag of chips covered almost 48 berries this time, more than enough to divide out for three kids)))

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Do not be tempted, let the strawberries dry! As you lift them off the wax paper, you will have a flat area where they touched the wax paper and it may be a little bare. If you are a perfectionist, you can reheat the pan if you still have any chocolate left, and dip that little bare spot to cover. I didn't and I promise you, it did not get noticed by any one of the three grandchildren)))

Save your plastic containers, wash them out and place some parchment paper in the bottom and place your berries carefully back in the container.

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Tie with a pretty bow and you're done!

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So each child got their own box of chocolate covered strawberries....plus the hubby and I had a box for ourselves, and we still have a few strawberries left over. Four quarts of strawberries were $6.00 and the chips about $1.50. Not bad for a three Valentine gifts! They're not Sherry's Berries of course....but they tasted pretty doggone good!





















Sunday, February 12, 2017

Old Fashioned Tea Cakes

Old Fashioned Teacakes

Repost from years ago:

Today in the quietness of a holiday afternoon….alone in the house…..everyone else at the shop working….well, technically I really was working….just doing it from home today and uploading a video tutorial to YouTube, I decided to make some Old Fashioned Teacakes from a recipe that I’ve had over 40 years or more.

teacakes-finished

We all have memories of being in the kitchen with a Mom or Grandmother……My Mother could made the best Teacakes you ever tasted. Don’t think she used a written recipe…don’t remember seeing one. But the cookies were crisp and chewy, buttery tasting and so good. We would risk burning our fingers to get them off the pan before they had cooled enough to handle. Always in danger of getting whacked by a big spoon!

My Grandmother, on the other hand, bless her heart…..she just could not bake good teacakes! I never could understand why one thing like a teacake could come out so good from one kitchen and so…..not so good from another!

My Grandmother’s teacakes always puffed up high in the middle and were too brown around the edges…..trying not to say burnt really….. They would be soft….more like a dense small piece of cake.

If my Grandmother ever said…..”let’s make some teacakes” we would rush in and say…..oh, well…how about some of those chocolate oatmeal cookies….and try to get her off track. My granddaddy loved the chocolate oatmeal drop cookies. There were called Warhurst Cookies in her cookbook. You win some….you lose some……you ate what you were given. Puffed up and burnt…..they were always made with love and we ate em!

Here’s my Old Fashioned Tea Cake Recipe (not really "my" recipe but the one I use, it was given to me by Helen Sanders who was a nurse aide at the hospital where I worked)

3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups Crisco (solid shortening, not oil)
3 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
3 1/2 cups self-rising flour

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Once I started the cookie making today, I realized we had no self-rising flour. So plain flour was used instead but baking soda and salt were added. (Add 1.5 tsp of baking soda and 0.5 tsp of salt to 1 cup of plain flour).

Cream the Crisco and sugar together. The recipe calls for Crisco (solid shortening, not oil). I have used butter before, but honestly like the cookies with Crisco better.

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Cream the eggs and sugar together

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Add the Crisco (solid shortening, not oil). Cut the Crisco up in pieces. I use the kind that comes in sticks like butter.

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Cream the shortening in until nice and smooth. Add the vanilla flavoring. Start adding the three 1/2 cups of flour a little at a time.

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The mixture will be stiff, much like biscuit dough.

Prepare a surface to turn the cookie dough out on. You can use a special mat made just for rolling or cutting. I usually use wax paper laid down on the counter top. If you will moisten the counter top just a little before placing the waxed paper, or parchment paper, it will stop it from sliding around when you get ready to roll out the cookies.

The best surface, is just to use your counter top. Sprinkle flour liberally and place the cookie dough in the center. This works best, but just makes for more cleanup.


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Once the cookie dough is on the waxed paper, knead in another 1 to 1 1/2 cups of flour. The dough will be fairly stiff. Stiffer than biscuit dough.

You will need to sprinkle a little bit of flour any time it gets sticky and sticks to your fingers.

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Sorry…..was home alone and it’s difficult to take a pic and knead at the same time))

Fold dough over, push away with the heel of your hand. Do this fold and push several times until the dough is smooth.

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The dough is now ready to roll out. Divide it up into about three portions and move two of them out of the way. Smooth your hands over the rolling pin with flour. Do this anytime the dough start sticking to your rolling pin.

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Start rolling the dough using short strokes, easing the dough out to the edges of the paper, keeping the thickness consistent.

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Prepare your pan before cutting out your cookies. This pan was just lined with parchment paper, no extra greasing or anything. But if you don’t use parchment paper, lightly grease your pan with Crisco or cooking spray. Preheat the oven to about 375 degrees.

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Cut out your cookies with a cutter, dust it with flour to keep the cookies from sticking to it. Usually I make mine using a biscuit cutter, but I thought I’d make this just a little bit smaller.

If you don’t have a cookie or biscuit cutter, you can use a glass. My mother and grandmother always just used a jelly glass…..or a snuff glass……they were the perfect size))) Just dip the glass in flour from time to time to keep the cuts clean.

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Place the cookies touching, but not overlapping. The thickness of the cookie comes with practice. Too thin…..they brown too quickly…..too thick, the cookies can be hard. These are cut somewhere around about 1/8″ inch.

You will have areas that no matter how smoothly your rolled out your dough, some will be thicker than others. That’s okay, just keep an eye on them in the oven. You might have to remove the thinner ones before the thicker ones.

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Place the cookies in the center of the oven and set the timer for about 8 mins. Start checking by six minutes until you see how your cookies do in your own oven.

Then re-roll the scraps. The more you re-roll the scraps, the stiffer the dough will get. So just take another lump of your dough and work these scraps into it. Start the process all over….dusting with a little flour as you need.

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Remove the cookies when they are lightly browned. Remove from pan gently using a cake spatula.

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I believe this is called a cake spatula. It’s one my husband’s grandmother gave me to at least 40 years ago. It’s really the only thing I use it for, and it’s perfect for removing cookies from a hot pan. Yes, these were placed on newspaper to cool. The Daily News isn’t all bad!

teacakes-cool

Cool and sample of course)) Once they have thoroughly cooled, you can store in a cookie jar, or zip lock bags….most anything.

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Once the word got out that I was making Tea Cakes, the request came in for chocolate tops! So, I melted a bag of dark chocolate chips with about a tablespoon of Crisco and spooned a little bit on top of some of the cookies.

Sometimes I put chocolate between two cookies……of course this means….anytime you reach for a cookie….you’re taking two. Making the cookies a tad bit smaller this time was my subconscious way of saying….you don’t need these….you don’t these…..but they are smaller….sooooo.

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Bake cookies with your kids….or grands…..so sweet. Here’s some photos from way back)))

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Yes, I would say……worth all the mess to clean up)))

And as I said, this is a re-post of a blog many years ago....the sweetie in the pic just made the high school cheer leading squad for next year. Go Maggie!!!
 

Sweet Memories of Sunday School

As I sit here this morning before getting dressed for church, my mind wandered back on a memory of my granddaughter Maggie and her Sunday School class. She was about three at the time. One Sunday after church, our daughter, son in law and the grandchildren came to our house for lunch. Maggie came in holding something so gently in her hands and gave it to me.

It was a little clay piece that I thought was maybe supposed to be a boat or the ark or something like that but she told me no, it was a jar of clay that they had made in Sunday School. I thought it was so sweet! Had her little fingerprints all over it. It wasn't quite dry, so I took it from her and placed it in a safe place on the mantel in the living room.

Can't tell you how many times I walked by that little handmade piece and would just swell with pride to know that my sweet granddaughter had made that, and wanted me to have it. And that her mom and dad take the kids to church, see that they go to Sunday School and participate in church activities. Lots of positive vibes came from that little piece. I would get misty eyed most every time I looked it at.

The little piece stayed on my mantel for years, occasionally I would have to clean up a little crumble here and there but I preserved it the best I could.

Then one day a few years later, Maggie came in and noticed the little clay piece on the mantel and picked it up looking at it. She was still fairly young and being the child she was, wasn't being as cautious with it as I though she should, so I said be careful! I'm keeping that, we don't want to break it. She asked why I was keeping it. I said, well because you made it! You made it in Sunday School and gave it to me a long time ago and I'll always want to keep it.

She said, "oh, I didn't make that, the teacher did."

Well, I didn't know what to do......all these years I had treasured that little piece of clay because her tiny hands had formed it.....or so I thought....it was kind of funny, but it really made me sad too.

Now, here was the dilemma, keep it or toss it! I sure didn't care anything about hanging on to something the teacher had made....but I swear....I could not throw that little piece away! I moved it from the mantel and tucked it in the corner of my china cabinet. I'm sure no one but me knows it's there and when I'm gone and someone sorts through my things, it will get tossed in the trash.

It brought a lot of nice memories that are still precious......and it's made me smile and laugh a few times too. Would you keep it?




Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Saved by a Grandchild....Once Again

So many times our grandchildren say things to us that we think at the time.....we should write that down lest we forget it.....and we don't....then we forget.

Needless to say, this week I had to have an MRI of my brain.....no biggie here....just a test. I only mention having the test because of something that my youngest grandson said a couple of years ago was what got me through it.

Now, I'm a retired nurse practitioner....long history of nursing....background in critical care.....cardiac surgery...yada yada yada. I can't count the number of patients that I have sent down to Radiology for an MRI and accompanied most of them due to the critical nature of their illness or injury. And like a compassionate nurse that I am, or was....reassured those that were conscious that they would be confined, enclosed, hear some noises and with my most calm and reassuring voice told them they would make it okay and it would be over soon.

Fast forward to having the test yourself. Still....no biggie I think.....I'm not really ill and I know what to expect.....so, what's the big deal you think. Everything goes as planned, the technician is not someone I know personally but is very kind and efficient, much like I used to think of myself. He explained what would happen and of course I already knew being the intelligent, astute person that I am, after all.....with my background...really....you think you need to explain to me? I think these thoughts to myself, I didn't say them out loud, I was the very nice patient.

He offered me a set of ear plugs......told him I couldn't hear anyway, that's why I was there.....he said take them, you'll hear this. So I did. I got into position and was slowly entered into the machine. Vertigo and hearing loss were my problems, so I figured it best to just keep my eyes shut the whole time lest I get nauseated or anything and I surely didn't want to have to call out for help.

The first noises I heard I though were really strange. I even questioned to myself if everything was okay with this machine. I had always explained to patients that there would be a whirring noise...etc...

There were no whirring noises.....there were noises like my head was in a drum and someone was beating on the drum with a sledgehammer!  Some noises were repetitive like 5-10-15 beats.....then someone responding in another area with 5-10-15 beats....some noises were almost science fiction like......some were like continuous jackhammer noises. Brief, very brief breaks between the loud strange noises.

This went on for 15 minutes or more and I felt surely, it was getting toward the end of the scan, but I was just about to lose it.....tears started running down my face and my head was wedged so that it wouldn't move and I sure didn't want to move because I knew it could mean starting over at some point and I didn't want that......then Matt's face came into view......and I remembered him asking me when he was about 5 years old if I knew how to right a bike. Of course I told him, yes.....I knew how to ride a bike. Guess at that point in his life he had never seen me ride a bike so it was a logical question for him.

Well anyway, he said.....I can tell you how. Now this is coming from a kid who is still riding a bike that's training wheels haven't been removed. But he was so serious, he said..."NeNe......just stay focused, and keep on pedaling....."  So I stayed focused and made it through those last few minutes of the scan. I couldn't stop the tears from streaming, but I did not move my head because I was focused on this child's sweet face and his wise advice of just stay focused, and keep on pedaling. They brought be out for a breather and to inject the contrast and back into the machine again for a few more minutes of scanning. And I survived.

I know the chances of any of my previous patients reading this post is most likely zero.....but I would just like to say to all of my patients that I so calmly, coolly, and collectively reassured that having an MRI would be okay, and that it wouldn't be too bad..........that I didn't know my you know what from a hole in the ground......and I apologize!

Matt, Maggie & AJ  with my 93 year old Dad

Picking Blackberries

Picking blackberries.....not I'm not talking about electronic devices here))) I still help out my daughter and son in law with their website businesses, Trendy Tree and Trendy Ornaments and this adorable new Blackberry Christmas ornament just came in the other day and immediately it brought back thoughts of blackberry picking with my grandmother, who we called Mama.

28113 Old World Christmas Blackberry Ornament


Blackberry picking was also done on a hot sunny day and since we would be walking in brambles and bushes, we always had to wear jeans and long sleeved shirts......hot as well.....you know it was hot.

Picking blackberries with Mama always mean she picked in her white water bucket and the rest of us picked and put our berries into a coffee can or syrup bucket, something like that. Only her berries when in the white water bucket. She would always take a hoe.....because there was always a high chance that you might step on a snake. Never did ....but the chance was always there. There was also a high chance that you would get stung by a wasp.....yes, that happened many times.

The worst thing about picking blackberries though.....was the chiggers.... Mama would warn us, wear long pants, socks, long sleeve shirts and if she had her way, we would all have to wear bonnets too. If you've never worn a bonnet in the hot sun, you cannot imagine how suffocating hot they are.....most of the time we tried to get out of the house quick enough to "leave the bonnets behind."

We would walk down through the pasture looking for good berry vines. They would always be flowing over fences or old downed trees having been struck by lightening through the years or just rotted down. If the vines didn't yield many berries, we would hop in my granddaddy's truck and he would drive us to someone else's pasture or fence line. You didn't necessarily stop by someone house and seek permission to go into their fields and pick some berries.....you just did. Unless, they happened to be in the yard and you just wanted to be sociable I guess and stop and say hello. Most of the time we just went directly to where we could find good berries.

Pick only the berries that are nice and black, no red ones.....they aren't ripe. This was the instruction each time.....and don't eat them! Can't eat berries until they have been washed...... They surely looked clean enough to eat though......so we ate them anyway. I'm sure she could tell, but she didn't fuss too much.

The very moment we were finished picking berries and arrived back home....we had to remove all our clothing and get into the bath tub...."to get rid of the chiggers."  This hardly seemed necessary, because our clothes would not be soiled except where we had wiped our berry eating fingers a time or too. But Mama would insist.....and not only that.....she would put some Clorox in the water!

Clorox or Purex was good for killing chiggers she insisted.  Being children, I supposed we protested because of the smell of the water, but it didn't matter we had to do it anyway. Once we were decked out in clean clothes we would help wash the berries over and over and try not to mash them too much.

Fresh blackberries always meant a cobbler would be cooked. The rest of the berries would go into little white freezer boxes or bags and into the "deep freeze" for another day.

Back to the chiggers....you would think you had safely made it that berry picking day without picking up any of the tiny little mites.....but first thing you know.....there would be a little itch at your ankles.....then maybe behind your knee......then maybe around your panty leg......OMG....if you've never had one or more than one chigger embedded into your skin, you cannot image the intense itching and scratching that will result.

Chiggers were a cruel trick that God placed on us all.....I mean really....you think every creature should have a supreme and unique reason for it's creation.....but this one has alluded me. And just as a warning.....I don't care how bad, you think you need to go.......never, never. decide to drop your pants while blackberry picking even though you know you are hidden from the entire world.....you will live to regret it.

http://www.babyboomerblogger.com/2016/04/picking-blackberries.htmlWild blackberries are more tart than the blackberries you purchase at the grocery store. So if you're using an old recipe from your Mom or grandmother....you might want to cut back on the sugar a bit unless you picked those blackberries yourself.

My Mother used her Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook and I'm not sure if this is the recipe that she used for her Blackberry Cobbler but I wanted to share it with you.

My Grandmother's cobbler was always baked in the same round dented pan each time. Mother generally had a flair for making her cobblers pretty as well as tasty, so her's might be baked in a white casserole dish or something like that.....but they both were good)))

Blackberry Cobbler

"Cobble up" means to put together in a hurry according to Betty Crocker.

Mix together in saucepan                 3/4 cup sugar
                                                          1 tbsp, cornstarch
Stir in gradually                                1 cup boiling water 
Boil 1 min, stirring constantly
and then add                                      3 cups of blackberries with any juice they have with them

Dot with                                            1/2 tbsp. butter
Sprinkle with                                     1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Make dough to drop by spoonfuls onto fruit mixture. Mix 1 cup sifted plain flour, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt 3 tbsp shortening (or butter) and 1/2 cup milk.   Note: if you are like me and use self rising flour, just leave off the sugar, baking powder and salt. Apparently self-rising flour wasn't as popular back in the 1950's as it is nowadays....or maybe it didn't exist.

Drop the mixture by spoonfuls onto your fruit mixture and bake in a moderately hot oven 400 degree for 30 min. Yields 6 servings.  *Calorie counts were not required of Betty Crocker in 1950....so just don't even worry about it......enjoy the Cobbler!  Serve with vanilla ice cream if you really want to impress))

So back to the cute little Blackberry Christmas ornament......what a perfect little keepsake for someone you love.

http://www.trendyornaments.com/28113-blackberry-old-world-christmas-ornament.htmlCollecting ornaments is so much more fun when you can associate it with a sweet memory from the past......so, buy an ornament, try making a blackberry cobbler and if you're brave enough......take those kids or grand kids blackberry picking this summer......but surely, surely, there is something now that you can douse the kids in so they won't get chiggers!!

Don't forget your hoe! Be vigilant, be ready.....there could always be a snake.








Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lantern Wreath Holder

49117-lantern-wreath-holder-trendytree 
A simple lantern stand holder. Perfect wreath holder for any occasion. Change it out by season, or add fun accessories to keep it looking fresh and new!

Take a look at this quick video demonstration. Available for purchase on Trendy Tree!





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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Do Roosters Bring Good Luck?

Do Roosters Bring Good Luck?

For years I’ve always heard that roosters in the kitchen bring good luck. Well, I don’t know about this, but several years ago my Mother got me and my two married sisters a metal rooster figurine. They were very colorful, made of metal, the tail feathers were quite springy and they stood up on their skinny metal legs.

Let’s face it. They were….downright tacky, or so I thought at the time. I wasn’t sure if she had given them to us as a gag gift, which she was surely capable of….or as a meaningful gift, or just wrapping up something for us to have at the Christmas dinner.

One year she gave all her daughters the “Epilady.” If you don’t remember this neat little item, just take my word for it. The single most pain-inducing invention known, neatly packaged and disguised as the “perfect Christmas gift.”

We all had a lot of fun with our roosters. We proudly displayed them for a while and then at some point, mine anyway, got removed from the kitchen and packed away or sold at a yard sale. I’m not sure what happened to it and now that my Mother is gone, I sort of wish I had the thing back. She did have a great sense of “quiet humor.” You didn’t hear her laugh out loud a lot, but you could see the twinkle in her eye.

As I’ve matured through the years, I’ve come to see more and more that there is a long tradition of displaying roosters in the kitchen as a good luck charm. Roosters are everywhere! They are made of metal, ceramic, porcelain, stoneware, etc. You not only find them as single roosters, but even pairs of them!

So we’ve decided at Trendy Tree to jump on the bandwagon and bring you this lovely set of roosters! Perfect for bringing good luck to your household. It must be true, because it’s all over the internet! These guys would make a lovely wedding gift))
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These roosters are so colorful and the positioning of the heads has been captured perfectly. You may wonder how I know that….well, this country girl remembers quite well what roosters look like in the yard. They will crow at the first sneak peek of a sunrise no matter how much you would like to sleep  late. They will strut around the yard, just daring you to chase them away.

I grew up on a farm, and my parents for a while raised chickens and sold eggs. Now, I’m not talking about having a few chickens running around in the yard and selling a dozen eggs at the local country store. They had thousands of chickens in chicken houses and sold eggs by the truckload.

In each of these chicken houses…..there were the ever present regal roosters. They scared the life out of me. I did everything I could to stay away from them and honest to goodness, occasionally one would try to run me out of the chicken house. Talk about watching where you step…..going barefoot had a whole new meaning back then as compared to my grands running around the yard now with no shoes.

Anyway, if my Mother was still alive today, I would gift her these roosters and I’m sure we would have a big laugh, but she would cherish them and proudly display them in her kitchen. Isn’t that right Mother))))