Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart.

Every Spring
you show up

and you remind me
of Grandma’s love.

You remind me of her presence
and influence on my life.

Thank you
Bleeding Heart!

Cheers & Hugs,

Many years ago, my Grandma gave me this bleeding heart plant.  I have transplanted and moved it.  It will always be where I am.  Grandma will always be a part of me.  There is likely not a day that passes where something doesn’t remind me of her or make me think of her, but this plant is an extra special reminder.  It makes my heart soar and swell each Spring when it blooms.  Just like her love for me did and still does.  With Mother’s Day approaching, I remember Grandma with love and the deepest admiration.  May I be even half the Grandma to my grandchildren that you were to me. ❤

PS – I will be taking a blogging break for a week or so.  See you when I return.

Snowstorm Stella & Perky Portulacas

Perky Portulacas in Pink & Orange – 8×10 Watercolor on Saunders 140 lb Cold Press

Snowstorm Stella & Perky Portulacas.

Last night
when all the talk was about Snowstorm Stella

that is supposed to be coming our way…
(could a snowstorm have a lovelier name?!)

I thought of my Grandma –
my Stella Star.

And as I painted what started out to possibly be poppies,
they seemed to emerge as perky portulacas.

When I think of Grandma,
I think of portulacas.

Grandma had a next door neighbor and best buddy
who grew the most amazing portulacas.

I remembered hot, lazy summer evenings
with Grandma and her friend and the talks we had.

I remember all the things I learned about life and love
from these special times.

So as I smiled at the snowstorm with the most beautiful name,
I fondly reminisced about my Grandma and portulacas.

And these wild and loose and crazy
pink and orange flowers grew on the page

With joy and happiness
and gratitude and love.

Cheers & Hugs,

Watercolor Paint:  Daniel Smith Cadmium Orange, Winsor & Newton Permanent Rose, Daniel Smith Lemon Yellow, Daniel Smith Cobalt Blue


A Star was Born

Stella Star

30 years ago – Grandma (Stella Star) 72 – Jodi 22

A Star was born
on a warm summer’s eve
destiny’s daughter
Stella Louise.

A Star was born
in a coal mining town
a new life, a new country
her parents danced round.

A Star was born
It was 1913
Her parents worked hard
but life was still lean.

A Star was born
when Stella turned nine
with three little brothers
and Dad in the mine.

A Star was born
when her mom passed away
and Dad shared the news
she must now the role play.

A Star was born
to cook and clean and no longer play
for Dad had work and brothers school
Stella took over the chores each day.

A Star was born
that raised brothers so dear
they all grew in love
and days turned to years.

A Star was born
that married my Pap
She laughed and sang and chattered
while I sat on his lap.

A Star was born
that taught me about life
the meaning of love
what’s wrong and what’s right.

A Star was born
that died too soon
but is always with me
like a warm cocoon.

A Star was born
as my memories reveal
the best, greatest gifts of love
for me she made real.

A Star was born
on that warm summer’s eve
My Grandma, my hero
Her memory my reprieve.

Grandma & Grandpap, Johnny & Jodi - 1968

Grandma & Grandpap, Johnny & Jodi – 1968

This poem is dedicated to my Grandma, my hero – Stella Star, and done in response to the WordPress DailyPost Writing 201 Poetry Challenge:

Prompt:  Hero(ine)
Form:  Ballad
Device:  Anaphora/Epistrophe

Grandma died 20 years ago at the age of 82.  I was 32.  I still miss her every day, but I try to live each day carrying out her legacy and making her proud of the person she helped mold me into.  She will always be my guiding star.

Cheers & Hugs,

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,

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,

Stampin’ Grateful!

stop and go neat and tangled

As some of you know, my Marty is a “Traffic Guy.”  He has also been the light of my life for 32+ years.  After putting up with me hosting Girlfriend Camp #GFC2014 this past weekend, I thought he deserved a little “appreciation.”  After all, he did “get out of Dodge” all day Saturday, but was our hero Sunday morning preparing us a breakfast fit for…  well…. the princesses we are! 🙂

Yippee Skippee I Freakin Love You and Chalk lines hearts

I freakin’ love him – for so many reasons.  So when I was in a crafty mood and found a card stamping challenge at Muse (Muse Challenge #77), I strangely thought this matched the challenge criteria.  I used a fun stamp set from #NeatandTangled called Stop and Go, #Stampinup Yippee Skippee and Chalk Lines stamp sets, DSP, card stock and ink, and a vintage Stampinup sentiment stamp from 2002.  My interpretation of the challenge card was in the design of a single object with a single sentiment and a simply framed layout.

Wink of Stella on Traffic Light Stop and Go Neat and Tangled

What I really love about this card, and the pictures just don’t do justice is the “Wink of Stella” Brush I used to glitz up the traffic lights.  Saw #JenniferMcGuire demonstrate it and am not sure if I like it more because it has the name “Stella” in it (my Grandma’s name) or the fun way it adds shimmer with NO glitter mess!

Anway – mailed this to Marty at work to let him know how much he rocks my world.

Cheers & Hugs,



Stella Star – remembering grandma

Grandma & Grandpap, Johnny & Jodi - 1968

Grandma & Grandpap, Johnny & Jodi – 1968

Grandma was my F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E person in the whole wide world growing up.

I have so many happy memories about Grandma I could probably write an entire book.

I took a walk on my lunch break yesterday afternoon in between raindrops and thunderstorms, and for some reason, I thought about Grandma an extra lot on that walk.

I think everything about early summer – the sights, the sounds, the smells – remind me of Grandma.

Maybe it is because I spent almost EVERY SINGLE DAY of EVERY SINGLE SUMMER growing up at Grandma’s house.

Oh – it was the BEST camp ever!

I learned so much from a lady that had to quit school in 4th grade to stay home and take care of her three younger brothers after their young mother passed away. At the ripe ole’ age of about 9 or 10, Grandma became mother, housewife, laundress, seamstress, cook, repair person, gardener and lawn tenderer. Can you even imagine? And this is long before automatic washing machines and dryers and sewing machines, disposable diapers, microwaves, cell phones, Google and Youtube, even indoor bathrooms! This was hard work – all day long – every day.

So though grandma was not formally educated, she was one of the smartest people I knew, and I learned so much from her – more than I realized at the time and even more the older I get looking back. She taught me important STUFF about real life – about cooking – about nature – about relationships – about acceptance and being the best of yourself. It was often disguised in humor or tough love or late night talks or swings on the porch or while picking blackberries. She wasn’t really trying to teach me by telling me how to be or what to say or how to act (or was she?). She lived her life in a way that demonstrated it and allowed me to experience it.

Oh she did some pretty UN-smart things too……. Like cutting off half of her middle finger on the lawn mower blade while trying to remove stuck grass without shutting off the mower…. Or cleaning some tough grime off the kitchen floor with gasoline and getting too close to the oven and catching the house on fire….

She never got her driver’s license after driving THROUGH the garage door, but she somehow managed to get around.


Grandma, Jodi & Jake 1987

She couldn’t balance a checkbook, but she was the best penny pincher and gift giver ever.

She did, however, make the absolute best blackberry pie, coffee soup (half coffee/half milk and lots of crumbled up saltines or chunks of toast), homemade sauerkraut and pierogies and halupkis and liver ball soup and apricot bread and nut rolls and salmon patties and dandelion salad and dumplings – oh my!

She also taught me things like how to make beautiful, colorful bouquets of Queen Ann’s Lace (many consider a weed) by putting food coloring in a mason jar vase of water so that when the flowers “drank the water,” their white petals turned pink or green or blue.

She taught me how to build a tent and a fort and how to camp out in the woods (about 500 feet from the house – but oh so far and vast when I was young). Thought I must admit I’m still not very good at that woodsy stuff…. Trying!

She could also splice electrical wires and do plumbing repairs.

She even allowed me to learn through crazy experiments like the time my friend, Janet and I decided we were going to boil worms (in her kitchen) for a science fair experiment! Or clean myself up in her bathroom with her yellow towels after experimenting with a mud mask facial – with REAL mud from the gravel road! (Oh the breakout after that escapade…)

What a sport she was – what a mentor – what a hero!

When grandma got older and became sick, it was my time to repay her. I hope I made her feel as loved as she did me.


Grandma, Jodi, & Nick 1990

I’ll never forget the time when she was recovering from a surgery and stayed with Marty and me in our small home in the spare room so we could look after her closely. I was pregnant with my first son, Jake at the time, and still working full time. Grandma was having trouble sleeping at night and would get chilled and shake and couldn’t get warm. She called out in the middle of the night and Marty got her an electric blanket, but nothing worked. She kept trembling and shaking until I climbed on top of her – pregnant belly and all – wrapped my arms around her and calmed her until the shivering stopped – warmed from my body heat – and love. And we slept through the rest of the night. I know she would have done the same for me. That is the kind of love she taught me.

Her name was Stella, and I thought that was the silliest name when I was young. She loved her name, however. She would proudly tell me that Stella meant “star,” and as I look back, I realized she was – and still is – my shining star.

Do you have a Stella Star in your life?


Stella Star & Her #1 Fan – 1985

I sure hope so. There’s nothing better.

Love you Grandma – then, now, and at all the stages of Life In Between…

Cheers and Hugs,