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Nana’s Authentic Ukrainian Pierogies Recipe (aka Pedaha)

When I think about my sweet Ukrainian Nana, the first two things I think about are love…

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Baby Eric!

And FOOD! When I was growing up, she was constantly making something. Canned everything, jams, birthday cakes with coins inside and buttercream icing, shortbread CHRISTMAS COOKIES!!!

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Banana splits every time I stayed overnight, Easter dinners, homemade pizza, lasagne, cabbage rolls, and of course, pierogies.

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Looooved her pierogies. She used to make batches of them and send them along to us. It was always such a treat. Those pierogies remind me of childhood. In my family, we always called the pierogies pedaha. I think it is a Ukrainian thing.

My Nana turned 100 a couple weeks ago, so for her birthday celebration we made some of her favourite dishes. My cousin sent me Nanny’s pierogi recipe, and I was on pierogi duty.

The pierogies are not overly difficult to make, but they are definitely time consuming. I made them over two evenings, after work. Along with wine, which I always recommend when cooking.

Filling ingredients:

  • 6-8 large potatoes (I actually used 10 because I didn’t want to run out, and I had a bit of mashed potato leftover)
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (so I used a pre-shredded bag of cheddar and mozzarella, and I definitely noticed a difference between my filling and my Nana’s. Hers was more yellow in colour and just a bit tastier. Nana is adamant about the sharp cheddar cheese)
  • Salt to taste (Nana uses a lot, always. Salt in everything)

Dough ingredients:

  • 6 cups flour
  • 1/2 lb butter (one cup) 
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp sour cream (secret weapon!)
  • 1 1/4 cups water

Yield – 55-60 pierogies

Filling directions:

As my cousin tells me, our Nana used to boil the potatoes with the skins on, and then peel them after they were soft. As you can imagine, trying to peel boiling hot potatoes is not a fun time. We think Nanners did this to add more flavour to the potatoes, but I’m sure it isn’t necessary. My cousin Chrissy has made these a bunch of times, and she followed Nanny’s directions to a T and finally she was all “Why am I trying to peel these boiling hot potatoes?!” so, yeah. Peel the potatoes and then chop them up prior to boiling. Much more boiling-friendly. Add chopped onion to the peeled, chopped potatoes.

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You can do this the night before and leave in the fridge if it’s easier (I did, but not necessary).

Once the potatoes are boiled and soft, you can remove the onion or keep it in the filling. I chose to keep the onion in, because I LOVE ONION.

Add cheese and more salt if you like (Nana likes!), and mash those puppies up.

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Dough directions:

Nanny suggests that you boil the water and add the butter, and then wait for the butter to melt and the water to cool. My cousin assumes this was because when Nana was first making her pierogies there were no microwaves. This is silly. Melt the butter in the microwave. Use lukewarm water, add the butter, eggs, and sour cream. Mix together, and then add the liquid to the flour.

You can use an electric mixer if you like, but I know our Nana is all about using her hands. This is how she inserted her love into everything she made (and love makes things taste better). So make sure your hands are nice and clean, and then mix that dough up. Knead it until it is smooth with no floury bits.

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It doesn’t look like much, but it goes a long way.

You can also make the dough the night before and use chilled dough the next day, but I actually found that warm dough worked best for me. It is the opposite of Nana’s shortbread Christmas cookies. In that case the dough is easier to work with when chilled because when it’s warm it sticks to evvvvverything! But with the pierogi dough I found the stickiness to be manageable. I also use parchment paper with my Nana’s Christmas cookies, and roll the dough between it, but for the pierogies I did not because I found using parchment paper was actually more of a hinderance. I know my Nana likes to feel that dough with her fingers!

Get a good handful of dough, and put it on a well-floured surface (the flour is KEY for no stickiness).

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Also put flour on top of the dough. Roll the dough into 1/8 in thickness.

Use a cookie cutter or a cup to cut in 2″ circles. Add a spoonful of filling in the middle.

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Seal by pressing the edges together. If the edges are not sealing, dampen them with water. Create your semicircle of pierogi deliciousness.

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After cutting your circles in the dough, put your leftover dough scraps back in your bowl of dough to be re-rolled.

Repeat until you have all the amazing pierogies.

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Place in a singler layer on a baking sheet, cover with a damp cloth, and then freeze the pierogies. Once frozen, lightly flour, put them in freezer bags, and back into the freezer. This stops them from sticking to each other (for the most part, I find it is almost unavoidable to have a little stickage once you cook them, even with Nana’s pierogies – I remember them being a bit sticky).

To cook the pierogies, boil water, salt, and some butter, and throw in 10-15 pierogies at a time. Once they rise to the top they are ready!

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These ones were boiled and then buttered by the staff at Willows Estate, I just brought them in frozen.

You can fry them afterwards if you like, but our Nanny never did, so I have always liked them just soft and doughy like she used to make them.

Eat them with lots and lots of sour cream! (and salt!!!)

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Nanny loved her own pierogies when I made them for her birthday!

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Did I mention she’s 100?!

So go forth and make your pierogies and enjoy them with your family!!!

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Photo source – quite the article written about our Nans on her birthday 😀

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The 100th Birthday Party

I still have quite a lot of trip recapping I want to do, but I need to take a little break because yesterday was a VERY important day and I want to talk about it while it’s still fresh in my mind. My Nanny turned the big 100. Evan and I headed over to her nursing home in the late morning, along with my family and Nanny’s friends, to celebrate this huge milestone.

Heeeeeere she is!

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Looking so sassy in her white silk blazer and pants. What a birthday girl. She is a minx to the ninth degree.

Note that she does not have to be in a wheelchair, she can walk…but sometimes she likes to walk without her walker, so she had a little fall a couple days ago. Just on her bum, she’s okay, but I guess she wasn’t feeling the best the day before her party and my aunt was like “Well ya better pep up ’cause we’re having a big party for you tomorrow!” And she did. Ohh she did.

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She was so happy to see all of us, and my cousins were there from BC and brought their children, our Nana’s grandchildren, who she cannot get enough of. She was just so excited.

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My cousins Allie and Chrissy

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My Auntie Nancy, the Nanners, and my dad

Seeing her so incredibly happy with all her family and friends brought tears to my eyes. It is bringing tears to my eyes right now as I write this.

Nanny had other reasons to be excited. She got all these letters from very important people congratulating her on her big day. Including her MP (Member of Parliament if you are not Canada savvy)…

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And that bottom quote “laugh as much as you breathe, and love as long as you live” is something my Nana very much lives by.

The Governor General of Canada…

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And YEP, she got her letter from the Queen!

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Well, the Queen’s office. That is official Buckingham Palace stationary, so kind of a big deal. And yes, this is a thing in Canada. The Queen will send you a personalized letter on your 100th birthday, and also for 50th wedding anniversaries. You do have to request it though. I know Nana has been waiting for that letter!

In honour of Nanny’s big day, I made perogies (or pedaha as we have always called them), from her very own recipe that she has been using for years and years. It was my very first time, but they turned out pretty good!

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I will post the recipe, but maaan they are time consuming. They took me two evenings. Worth it though, they are so good and they really did taste just like Nana used to make them. My dad said he couldn’t even tell the difference, which was basically the highest compliment I could have received. I really have to thank the staff at her nursing home because I just brought them in frozen and they boiled them in the kitchen for us and then covered them with butter. Very nice of them.

Evan also made my Nana’s famous salad. He is the only one I know who can get the dressing close to hers (oil and vinegar, you know, the salad). 

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Adding garlic really helps. Nana eventually just added entire cloves of garlic into the salad, surprisingly better than it sounds…but chopping it up is good too.

My Auntie Nancy also made a cabbage roll casserole (Nana used to make cabbage rolls all the time), so it felt like I was eating a meal at Nana’s house.

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For dessert my Nana’s friend made a chocolate mint pavlova, which I didn’t even know that I liked…but it was probably the best thing I’ve ever eaten. I was dying over it.

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Seriously so good. I need that recipe in my life. I want to eat it every day.

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And cookie cake.

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Because my Nana loves her cookies.

And of course we had champagne, which means MIMOSAS!!!

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Does she look good, or does she look good? I don’t know what it means when your 100-year-old Nana probably has less wrinkles than you do. I am hoping that with age they just go away. We were all raving about how great she looked and how amazing her skin is, and she said “Oh, it’s makeup! It’s just makeup!” I’d like to know what kind of makeup that is, ’cause I think it’s magic.

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But it’s more than her physical appearance. She just has a light behind her eyes.

I saw so many people I haven’t seen for a long time, which made me really happy. I especially enjoy spending time with my beautiful cousins, and I am sad they are a five hour flight away. Our visits always seem so short and so far between.

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Even my friends Emily and Corey came out to say happy birthday to Nana.

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Really nice of them. Nana hasn’t seen Emily probably since we were in elementary school, but she remembered her!

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I can’t believe how with it she still is. She was asking about Lisa, my bestie, and wanted to see recent pictures of her. She remembered and was asking about Eric’s girlfriend Kenya and she’s only met her once. She always asks how Winnie is doing.

For every birthday, all my Nana ever asks me for is pictures of me. That’s all she wants. Just pictures of her grandchildren. And so, for her birthday present Evan and I made a photo album of our recent vacation photos. She loved.

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That Nana is so photogenic. She is always instantly photo ready. I feel like this might be where I get that from. Camera is pointing my way? Must smile. My Nans has always been like this, and I found a bunch of pictures of me when I was kid when I was at my mom’s recently, and I seem to have always been like that too.

So the happiest, happiest of 100th birthdays to the Nana.

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I know that my Papa was smiling down on her (please note she still faithfully wears her wedding ring, even though my papa passed away when my mom was pregnant with me over 30 years ago).

We better be celebrating number 101 next year!

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Happy 100th Birthday to my Nana!!!

That’s right, you heard me. My positive, happy, strong, beautiful, most amazing Nana turns 100 today. 100!!!!!

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I can’t believe it. She was born in 1914. Can you even imagine all the things she’s seen?

To celebrate her big day my family is heading over to her nursing home for a party this morning. It’s gonna be a good time and you better believe there’s going to be champagne, and you better believe my nana is snagging that 100th birthday letter from the Queen.

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I’m gettin’ my letter.

I don’t even know what to say about my Nana that I haven’t already said before. She continues to be the most positive woman I know, with the happiest outlook and the sunniest disposition. When something is worrying me she still tells me “Don’t worry, you’re beautiful,” and she still tries to take care of me with her “care packages” (last time she gave me a box of Ziplock bags and a bunch of Werther’s Originals). She is the biggest example of enjoying the small things in life, and the two words she uses the most often are “wonderful!” and “fantastic!”

This is why she has lived so long, I know it. She is the prime example of not sweating the small stuff. She has not had the easiest life, and her early childhood years were particularly tumultuous, but she has not let that be an excuse to not be happy. It is so easy to blame circumstances or people for the things that are wrong in your life. But she does not. She just carries on. Even being in a nursing home. It’s not ideal. I’m sure she doesn’t love it there, but she knows it is the best place for her to be and she makes the best of it.

She has been the best influence to my cousins, and my brother and I.

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If you are interested, here is some past Nana reading material:

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HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY NANA!!!!

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We Love the Nana

This weekend was my birthday weekend! On Saturday I turned elderly. Well, 31. It’s fine, it’s fine…3o is the new 16. A handful of people have asked me how I feel about turning 31 and eh, I don’t have a lot of feels either way. People get older, it can’t be changed, there’s nothing to do but embrace it. If I want to put things into perspective I just think of my saucy Nana.

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Who will be 100 years young this July! She is gearing up for her birthday letter from the Queen. And I still think she looks like she’s in her 60s. If I make it to a spry 99 as she has this means I still have nearly 70 years ahead of me, which sounds like a freakishly long time. And way too long a time to spend worrying about getting older. Also, having fun keeps you young.

My cousins Chrissy and Allie are currently visiting from BC, so on Friday I worked from home and took a long lunch so I could make it to the impromptu family reunion in my Nana’s home.

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Four generations of Evanoff

(If you are looking for some light reading I suggest Allie’s wedding post, it is one of my favourites that I have written and one of the best weekends of my life.)

The Nanners was soo happy to have everyone there. She is so funny when you tell her stories because she just says “Wonderful!” and “Fantastic!” and “Beautiful!” She is just the happiest ever. She lives for visits with us, and the kids especially bring her a lot of joy.

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Wonderful!

She had actually been really sick with the flu leading up to Friday, and I guess it was so bad late last week that she contemplated going into the hospital…but then she heard we were all coming so she was like “well I can’t be sick, I need to see everyone!” so then she was just better and no hospital visit required. Pretty good example of mind over matter right there. She is strong for her children and her grandchildren and her great grandchildren.

Even my dad made it out to see the fam.

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Normally I would make some sort of comment about my dad’s attire, but I am pretty sure we’re wearing nearly the same shirt so I’d better refrain…

It was such a lovely afternoon with my family and it gave me a little pep in my step for my birthday celebrations in the evening. We were talking about how we all leave a Nana visit feeling warm and happy. She is such an inspiration.

It was a very good start to my birthday weekend. A very good start indeed. Shenanigans still to come. Hope you had a great weekend!

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Nana, Cookies and #icestorm2013

Good morning and Happy Eve of Christmas Eve! I am especially excited for this glorious day because today is my last day of work until January 6th. Hurrah and also yippee. My entire office is shutting down for the holidays, so I am a very lucky ducky. I am so grateful. I have been looking forward to having some leisure time since October. Not that I will be getting much of it over the holidays either, as I seem to be booked with activities every day until New Year’s Day… But at least it’s fun festive times with family and friends.

Well, I guess that isn’t entirely true about the leisure time. Forced hibernation and therefore leisuring came unexpectedly this weekend when (HASHTAG!) icestorm2013 rolled in.

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Freezing rain literally all weekend long, the worst from Saturday night through Sunday morning, but pretty icy all around. My friend Sherrie was hosting a gathering full of Christmas cheer on Friday, and I had my glitter shirt all laid out and ready…but since it’s about an hour drive Evan and I opted to stay in since the storm was starting, the roads were not the most fabulous, and they were just supposed to get worse. Flash freezing at any time. And on Saturday it was my friend Julie’s 30th birthday party, but again. Ice. And by then the roads were even worse, so that was out also. I was bummed to not be able to see everyone, but I cannot lie, I was excited to stay in my pajamas and enjoy being forced inside with my lover and a rum and Coke (I tried rum and egg nog but I am not really a fan).

At least we have had power the whole time, as a couple hundred thousand people do not. My dad and Mona were powerless for nearly 24 hours and at one point my dad called me and was all “If the power doesn’t come back on, Christmas might be CANCELLED!” (they always host Christmas on Christmas Eve, and it’s expected that some people may be without power for 72 hours, and no power = no heat, so cancelling Christmas would not be completely unwarranted). But the power is back on for them, so there will be Christmas! It’s a Christmas miracle. We only lost cable and the internet last night, but most of our neighbourhood is without power (and it’s estimated they will be until Christmas Day!) so I cannot complain. I really, really cannot complain.

I remember the last time we had a crazy ice storm like this, when I still lived in the middle of nowhere, and it was SO insanely icy that we could skate right on the streets. I figure skated over to my friend Melissa’s house, picked her and her skates up, and skated all through the streets with her all day long. Winter in the country is the best. Winter in the city…I can’t say many good things about it.

Anyway, Evan and I spent the entire day on Saturday making my Nana’s famous Christmas cookies.

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And I am not exaggerating when I say all day… We finished decorating them at about 7pm. They are quite time consuming, and we also made three batches of them so we had enough to bring to our families this week for Christmas celebrations. The time is totally worth it though, they are so ridiculously good. And as they should be, as they mainly are just butter and sugar, which is one of the best combinations of all time (chocolate and peanut butter might top it).

Evan was Santa’s little helper, which was awesome. It was the first time I have ever had help making these.

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He also figured out how to make the parchment triangles that I accidentally bought last year into icing bags.

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So I was pretty impressed with that.

When all was said and done, and after I ate about a pound of butter during the icing process, we had 70 beautifully decorated cookies, just like my Nana used to make.

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Speaking of the Nanners, we did eventually venture out on Sunday afternoon to go and visit her. It was still lightly freezing rain, but the roads were salted and not too horrible. She really needed Q-Tips, paper towels, and Werther’s Original, so we had to make it there. But maaaaan was it an adventure. Her nursing home is north of the city and most of the way there, the power was out everywhere. All the streetlights were out, and of course no one knows how to deal with a street light if it isn’t working (four way stop!!!), a lot of cars didn’t stop at all. Trees were down all over the place. Gas stations were closed. But the streets were still really busy with people. It was chaos. I felt like it was the apocalypse.

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I don’t have any good pictures of all the trees down, but some of my Facebook friends sure had some crazy things happening. At least it was pretty. The trees are suffering, they’re all bent over and mangled under the weight of the ice, but they are suffering beautifully.

We eventually made it to the Nanners, and we gave her the Q-Tips and the paper towel and her Werther’s Original. And she was reunited with her Christmas cookies!

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I hope they remind her of family Christmases like they do for me.

She was telling us about a certain young man in her nursing home who gave her a stuffed “dog” (it was actually a stuffed tiger, but close enough), and who is obviously trying to woo her. She said she kissed his hand to thank him, because “I wasn’t going to kiss him on the face!” It was very cute. 99 and a half years of age and she’s still got it.

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What a MINX!

And she still wears her wedding band even though my Papa passed away over 30 years ago.

I still cannot believe how great she looks and how with it she is. She definitely has her rough days, but she’s still mobile, she’s happy, and does a surprising amount for herself in that home. At that age I think that’s all we can ask for.

I left there with my heart just full to the brim and a bag of cookies she saved from meals for me. I’m so glad we braved the icepocalypse and trekked over.

I guess that’s pretty much it. I am all ready for Christmas. Our stockings are hung by the fake chimney haphazardly…

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Winnie only gets hers if she continues to be a good cat.

And we’re basically done all the wrapping.

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So I am feeling pretty good. I’m still waiting on two online presents to be delivered, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without minor annoyances now would it?

Hope you all had a great weekend, with power and heat!

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My Nana and My Cat: A Comparison

I have been thinking a lot lately about how similar my Nana and Winnie are. You are probably wondering how a grown woman can possibly be anything like a cat, and I feel you on that. I know it sounds crazy, but they are kindred spirits. I’ll tell you why.

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They’re both really old.

I’ll just state the obvious here and get that out of the way. They’re old. Winnie is 20 and my Nana is 99. There are differing opinions on cat years compared to human years, but Winnie is anywhere from 100 to 140 years old in human years, so really they’re about the same age.

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They are both social butterflies. 

When my Nana first moved into her nursing home she said what she missed the most about her freedom was going to the bank and going out to get her groceries. She just missed those regular, every day interactions with people. She will talk to anyone, and is basically in her element during any social event.

Winnie is the same. She lives for social interaction. She wants to be around people all the time, and she will meow at/snuggle with anyone. Anyone who enters the house. My bestie Lisa told me last time she was staying with me that she always thinks Winnie remembers her because she’s so affectionate towards her, and then she said “but then I remember that Winnie’s slutty with everyone.” And that’s true. She is.

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Especially Evan these days. She better watch herself.

They both are very food-oriented.

My Nana gained a bit of weight when she first moved into her nursing home because there was dessert served with every meal and she couldn’t resist it. So many of my memories of her involve food. Her freshly squeezed orange juice, her homemade perogies, cabbage rolls, lasagne, her Christmas cookies, her banana splits, her salads, pickled everything, her BIRTHDAY CAKE!!!! (best birthday cake I have ever had, ever), the list goes on and on.

Winnie loves food also. She can’t make me delicious things, but she will eat pretty much anything (except raw vegetables, and interestingly my Nana cannot have much “roughage” either). The other day we cooked ham for breakfast and Winnie stalked the kitchen table until it was unattended for a minute, jumped up onto it, stole a piece of Brotherman’s ham off his plate, ran away and ate it. So, yep. Food oriented.

They both love to snuggle.

When my cousins and I are visiting our Nana, we get right onto the bed with her and give her a snuggle.

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Winnie too lives to snuggle.

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She is sprawled out on Evan’s legs with her tail resting on mine as I type this.

My cousin Allie wrote a letter to our Nana once and listed all the things she remembers about her, and one of the things was “Going to sleep with you on the pull-out coach and never feeling you leave.”  Winnie stays with me in my arms nearly every night until I fall asleep, and I never feel her leave. I’ll just wake up later and find her on my feet.

They both have to be touching me at all times if they’re near me.

Kind of a continuation of the snuggling, but whenever I am sitting near my Nana, she must be touching me. I have always noticed and loved this about her. In all my pictures with her, she is always touching me. An example:

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Winnie is like this, but it’s the opposite. She wants someone touching her at all times. She lives to be touched. When you get home from work, or when you wake up in the morning, Winnie is waiting to greet you. She meows at you and immediately leads you over to the ottoman (ALWAYS the ottoman), where she lures you into petting her. If you are standing near her and you are not touching her she will look at you like “WHY AREN’T YOU TOUCHING ME?!”

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They both have had kidney issues.

My Nana had a kidney removed 20 years ago. Still spry. Winnie has been diagnosed with stage 2 kidney disease. Still spry.

They both like to play.

My Nana goes around to all the games the nurses put on in her nursing home. She loves table bowling, BINGO and Mystery Word (Mystery Word is her favourite). She mostly goes to the games because the nurses are judged on attendance and she doesn’t want the nurses to get bad marks or feel bad if their attendance is low, but still, she likes to play.

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Winnie also likes to play. She cannot resist her ball on a string. Ever. No matter what she is doing if you dangle it in front of her she will immediately stop and grab for it with her little paws and her mouth. She is old, but she is speedy.

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I got this.

They both love their family and are fueled by love.

No explanation needed. Both my Nana and Winnie live for the love of their family.

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Well, Winnie lives for the love of anyone, really. But I like to think she loves me the most.

They both give me this incredible feeling of comfort just being around them.

Once again, no explanation needed. They both can instantly make any situation better and being in the presence of either of them makes me feel safe and warm. They both feel like home.

They both have the most positive attitude of anyone I know.

My Nana and Winnie are both rays of sunshine in my life. They are both incredibly happy and positive. After any sort of illness or setback, their positive attitude and strong will is what keeps them going. You may ask how I can tell that a cat has a positive attitude, and I am not exactly sure. But I know she does. And if you ask anyone who has met Winnie I know they would agree with me.

How do you think they have both lived for so long and are still so happy? They are both the prime example of positive thinking. They don’t sweat the small stuff. They live for the smallest joys in life.

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Like Winnie’s favourite alpine scratcher.

It is the little things that make them happy, and I think both of them are examples of how the quality and longevity of your life is directly related to your happiness.

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And that is how my Nana and my cat are the same.

Do any animals remind you of people you know?
I can’t be the only one!

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