Warmth: @ 51.364

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Warmth - Candle Glow & Christmas Lights

Weekly Photo Challenge: Warmth

Warmth….  Awwwwhhh….  Such a cozy thought this time of year as we begin Winter and prepare for the coldest months of the year here on in Mars.

There’s nothing like curling up on the couch under a fleece blanket by the glow of candlelight and a crackling fire – especially during the holidays with the twinkling reflection of Christmas tree lights adding additional warmth to the living room.  Add a nice glass of dry red wine – maybe 7 Deadly Zins or a nice Cab – or maybe even a stiff Bombay and tonic with a twist of lime or a glass of sweet syrupy Port or some brandy over ice (oops – I digress!).

We were talking about warmth – right?  (that’s this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge).

All of this is such a lovely scenario until IT hits….

Most women out there 45 years + likely know what I’m talking about….

The family is sitting together all snuggly – watching TV, reading, looking at our computers/iPhones/iPads – and IT happens all of the sudden – out of nowhere.

My face becomes flush from the neck up, the fleece gets thrown off, the ceiling fan goes on, and I say (every single time – completely shocked and surprised – as if it were the first):

“Is it HOT in here or is it just me?”

Warmth is an understatement when IT hits!

But then, usually in less than 2 or 3 minutes, IT is gone.  The blanket gets pulled back up, another log on the fire, another sip of…..

Oh the joy of HOT flashes as I celebrate life,

New Year’s Eve,

and my (GULP!) 52nd birthday…

Today!  🙂

Warm Cheers & Hugs,

PS Why 51.364?

Well, unless you are reading this close to midnight on 12/31/14, I am still 51 – and hanging on to it as long as I can…

According to ancient folklore, I was born very close to midnight – almost 1/1/63 – – –  8 minutes or 12 minutes or something close to that.

So, I’m much closer to 52 for my Australian friends than my Martian friends.

But really – 51 – 52 – what’s the difference really?! Especially when IT hits!

Making Homemade Polish Pierogies

pierogi homemade polish pittsburgh

We revived another one of Grandma’s Christmas traditions this year.  We made her homemade Polish pierogi recipe.

I don’t know how Grandma did all this work herself every year for our holiday meal.  She never asked anyone else to bring anything.  She did all the cooking, all the baking, hosted, and did all the clean up.  Occasionally I was asked to dry dishes….  and I complained!  UGH!  How could I have?!  If only we had the wisdom of experience and could turn back time to show our gratitude and appreciation…

I am fortunate enough to have my hubby, Marty, help with these little buggers.  There are not a lot of ingredients, but there are a few tedious steps, and the dough is a bit “tight” to roll out.  pierogi 1

In fact, you would laugh if you would have seen me climbing on a chair and kneeling on the kitchen counter to roll it out easier!  Much less strain on the back that way! 🙂

pierogi 2

We made the filling the day before and refrigerated overnight so it was easy to roll into little balls for the filling.

pierogi 3

It is really important to seal them completely so the filling doesn’t seep out when boiling.

pierogi 4

I use a little bit of water on my fingers to help seal, then pinch with tines of a fork.

pierogi 5

Boiling only takes a few minutes, and they are done when they float to the top.

pierogi 6

When ready to serve, fry the pierogies in a skillet with butter until golden brown.

pierogi 7

Then the really yummy part comes when you caramelize sweet onions in butter and layer in between your pile or bowlful or pan full of these wonderful little pasta pockets of cheesy potato goodness.

pierogi 8

Pierogies are a Polish tradition and a Pittsburgh tradition.  There are even several stores/restaurants that strictly sell and serve pierogies.  They can be made with a variety of fillings.  Our favorite is potatoes and cheese, but we also love them filled with homemade saurkraut sauteed in pork.  Others fill them with a cottage cheese or prune filling.  Grandma always pronounced them ‘pee dough gee‘.  Some people spell them ‘pieroghi’.

Whatever way you pronounce it or spell or fill it, pierogies are a wonderful treat and another fond memory of my dear Grandma, my Stella star.

pierogi homemade polish pittsburgh

Here is Grandma’s Polish Pierogi Recipe:

4 cups flour
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 pint sour cream
2 Tbsp melted butter

Potato & Cheese Filling:

2 lbs. potatoes (I like to use Yukon Gold) Peeled, Boiled and Mashed
1/2 lb Shredded Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese (do not use pre-shredded)
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp butter

For Filling: Mash potatoes, add rest of ingredients, and blend well. Chill until ready to use.

Assembling the Pierogies:
Mix all dough ingredients together and knead until dough is smooth.
Roll out to approximately 1/4″ thickness and cut into 2-3″ circles with a drinking glass.
Add about a tablespoonful of filling to center, then fold over, seal, and crimp.
Place pierogies in boiling water and boil until they rise to the top, then remove.
When ready to serve, fry in butter in a skillet until golden brown.
Sauteed onions – the more the better are excellent served with pierogies.
We also love a dollop of sour cream on top.

Cheers & Hugs,

Giving Keys and Mini Beers

Our family is so fortunate to have a “best friend” family.  My BFF Jill and her family make up our extended chosen family.  Together we are the McHendy Family (a combination of McKinney and Henderson). 🙂

Our kids have grown up together.  We have spent Christmases and New Years and many other holidays and celebrations together through the years (as well as a few trying times, tragedies, changes, and everything else life throws at all of us!).

This Christmas, even though are kids are grown – – with a few married and a few moved away to other states – – we were able to all gather together the day after Christmas to celebrate our family friendship.

I like to share small, but hopefully meaningful gifts with our McHendy family.

mchendy girls giving keys bracelets

This year, I was excited to find The Giving Keys for the girls.  If you haven’t heard of it, I urge you to check out their website and their mission.  Per their website, “The Giving Keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness to make jewelry out of repurposed keys that get sold and shared around the world. Each key is unique and carries a message like HOPE, STRENGTH, DREAM or COURAGE. When the wearer of the key encounters someone else who needs the message on the key, they give it away and then send us the story of their key being paid forward.”

I ordered a key bracelet (The Never Ending Bracelet) for each of the girls and had the word “Grateful” engraved on it, because I am grateful for each one of them in my life.  After they wear it for a while, they are to pass it on and express their gratitude to someone in their life.

mchendy girls giving keys bracelets 2

For the boys, I painted “McHendy” in gold sharpie on a shot glass for each of them.

McHendy shot glasses

To try to get them all to look relatively the same, I chose a font I liked and printed the word “McHendy” out on a sheet of white paper.  I cut it out to fit into the glass and simply drew over it while it was inside the glass.

mchendy boys shots 2

Once opened, we filled each shot glass up with a “Mini Beer.”   Have you ever had one?  They actually taste more like a creamsicle than beer, but they look like a little glass of beer, so are fun to make.  (To make a Mini Beer, simply fill a shot glass 2/3 full with Licor 43 and top with a splash of heavy cream)

mchendy boys shots

Here’s a picture (sorry a bit blurry) of our McHendy “Kids” who I love so dearly (including a few new members!)

McHendy Kids at Christmas 2014

Here they were what seems like about 10 minutes ago…


Cherishing memories then and now!

Cheers & Hugs,




DIY Scrabble Coasters

scrabble coasters bundled

I had a ball trying to think of fun four-letter words with Scrabble tiles to make these DIY Scrabble coasters as Christmas gifts for family and friends.

I really wanted to share them before Christmas, but I didn’t want to spoil the surprise for the recipients.

scrabble coasters

They would also be cute birthday, Valentine’s, new home, and anniversary gifts too!

I simply purchased a couple of sheets of cork tile, glued Scrabble tiles in a 4×4 pattern onto them with E6000 glue, hit them with a spray of clear polyurethane spray, then trimmed with a utility knife.  Voila!  Cute handmade gift!

scrabble coasters coffee mug

I bought bags of Scrabble tiles at Amazon, but if you have time, you can start scouring Goodwill, second hand shops, and garage sales for used Scrabble games cheap to get the tiles.  You might also just find yourself wanting to play this classic game again, too!

Cheers & Hugs

PS.  If you want to make these and need further directions, there are some great Youtube videos or other DIY sites you can check out by simply searching Scrabble Coasters.

A Jar of Love

Some of the best gifts cost little or no money.

Like this jar of love I received from our dear Ella.

jar of love christmas gift from ella 2014On Christmas day, 7-year old Ella came bouncing in our house with bright, smiling eyes and outstretched arms – wrapping me in a tight, warm hug.

She barely had her coat off before she handed me a small pint sized jar labeled “I love you because.”

“Open it,” she begged, with as much excitement as if I were giving her the largest, shiniest, fanciest gift…

Inside the jar were sweet sentiments  – expressions of love – that welled up my eyes, warmed my heart, brought a quiver to my voice, and filled me with more joy than a hundred million catrillion dollars could buy.

I love you because you are super

I love you because you are funny

I love you because you are nice

I love you because you send me awesome cards

I love you because you put people before yourself

I love you because you are cheerful

I love you because you are jolly

I love you because you are cool

I love you because you are kind

I loved when you read me Wonder

I love you because you are creative

I love you because you are sweet

I love you because you appreciate anything people do for you

I love when you help me out

I love you because you make cool treats

I love you because you make me feel welcomed

I love you because you are generous

I love you because you are awesome

I love you because you love me ❤

I will always treasure my Jar of Love.

Gifts need not cost money – they matter most when they are from the heart.

Cheers & Loving Hugs,



Brown Paper Packages tied up with String

…these are a few of my favorite things…

christmas brown paper packages tied up with string

I kept my wrapping simple this year – brown paper packages tied up with string…

and plenty of gift bags, which saved a lot of time!

I like to have lots of packages to give even if it is just something small or the traditional socks and boxers 🙂

And I would like to put the gifts under the tree, but little Mr. Mikey cannot be trusted these days – especially if I leave him alone in the house for any length of time (he already ate half of a Yankee peppermint-scented candle that was in a zippered gift pouch in a pile to be wrapped in my home office…. Seriously – a dog who likes peppermint!?!!?  And can unzipper a cloth bag to get to it!)

So the gifts are all stacked in my office, and the office door remains CLOSED!

christmas brown paper packages and bags

One year Mikey ate an entire pound of Chocolate Peanut Butter Meltaways that was in a box wrapped in cellophane and then gift wrapped and was in the middle of a pile of gifts under the tree.  No other boxes were disrupted somehow, but the entire box of candy was G-O-N-E!  And though chocolate is supposed to be “poison” to dogs, Mike had a bit of a tummy ache and slugged around for a few hours, but was no worse for wear.  Oh Mikey!

Anyway – the package is half the fun.  Right?

Well – I ran out of bags and had some special little gifts left to wrap that are odd shaped, so I found this cute little easy-to-make gift bag on Pootles Papercraft’s YouTube channel.

festival orf trees christmas gift bags

Sam does great tutorials on all kinds of little gift bags and boxes if you want to check her out.  And her accent is so fun to listen to also!  I used StampinUp’s Holiday Craft Paper (Under the Tree DSP), the Festival of Trees Stamp and Punch, and a bit of jute string to tie it closed.

Hope you are enjoying doing some of YOUR “favorite things!

“The Sound of Music” was my Mother-in-Law’s favorite movie of all. Remembering her fondly, and thankful for the best gift she ever game me – her son – my Merv. ❤

Cheers & Hugs,

Apricot Kolaches & Christmas Cookie Baking

I finally got around to some Christmas cookie baking this weekend, and the highlight for my gang is the Apricot Kolaches.

apricot kolaches

Mine are not quite as perfect and beautiful as Grandma used to make, but they are getting thumbs ups around here.  Apricot Kolaches are a traditional Polish tender cream cheese pastry cookie with a sweet-tart apricot filling.  Grandma was 100% Polish, and her cooking and baking were like none other!

apricot kolaches 3

I remember Grandma painstakingly measuring each 2 inch by 2 inch square so that every singly one looked exactly the same.  I don’t have nearly the patience, but I smile remembering those days in the kitchen with her.  I can also now relate to the aching back and feet she had at the end of the day after rolling, cutting, filling, folding, baking, cooling, packing up…  And I wish I had a young Jodi to rub my feet and massage my legs with Jergen’s cherry almond lotion like I did for Grandma in the evening after an all-day baking session.

apricot kolaches 2

But the joy on Marty’s and Nick’s faces and the “Mmmmm’s” that escape their lips between bites make it all worth it!

(and then I have to hurry up and freeze some or they would be gone quicker than it takes me to clean up the dishes!)

I also made some of my Jodi’s Almost Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies – a perennial favorite around here…

chocolate chip christmas cookies

…as well as some with dried blueberries and white chocolate chips using the same recipe (another of Marty’s faves).

And it wouldn’t be Christmas without some Peanut Butter Blossoms…

peanut butter cup cookies

And gotta have some Pittsburgh Thumbprint cookies too.  I made a batch with chocolate fudge and another with colorful sprinkles and green icing centers.

chocolate pittsburgh thumbprints

Here is the recipe I use for the Apricot Kolaches.

(The Chocolate Chips and Pittsburgh Thumbprints can be found by following the links to previous posts.)

apricot kolache making


2 8-oz blocks of cream cheese, softened
2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups apricot preserves or apricot filling (I use Baker’s)
1 Egg, beaten
Confectioner’s (Powdered) Sugar, for dusting

Beat cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed of stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Turn mixer on low, and gradually mix in the flour until a smooth dough forms.

Knead dough on lightly floured work surface, and gently form a ball.  Divide dough into fourths, flatten, and wrap each in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line cookie sheet or baking stone with parchment paper.  Working with one piece of dough at a time (after bringing back to room temperature from refrigeration), roll out to approximately 1/8 inch thick rectangle.  Trim edges and cut dough into 2 inch squares.

Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of apricot filling into the center of each square.

Fold one corner into the center, dab with the beaten egg, then bring the opposite corner into the center and press firmly to seal.

Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet, and bake for approximately 10 minutes.

Dust with confectioner’s sugar and cool on wire rack.

These cookies freeze well, and thaw quickly.

This recipe makes about a million ….  or at least feels like it when you are making them!  🙂
I hope you and your family will try these and enjoy them as much as we do.

Cheers & Sweet Hugs,