Penny's Passion: August 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015

Guacamole -- Yes Please!

This past weekend on my epic floating trip (you can read about it HERE), my good friend TW whipped up a batch of his famous guacamole.  Anytime this group of friends get together, having TW's guacamole is on everyone's wish list.  He didn't let us down!

While he was working his magic, I decided to click a few pictures and share his recipe on my blog so all you good people could try it too.  If you're a big fan of this green stuff like I am, you must give this a try!

Here's What You Need

4 or 5 avocados
1 tomato
2 limes
1 sweet onion
small container of sour cream
small jar of your favorite salsa (one without mangos, corn or beans)

Here's What You Do
First thing - get ready to do some chopping.  Cut up the avocados, tomato, and onion and place all the pieces in a large bowl.   Please forgive the lack of beauty of my bowl.  Remember -- we were making this in our cabin in the woods and this was the prettiest bowl we could find in the cabinets.

Pour in about 3/4 the jar of salsa. 

Rub the limes on the counter to loosen up the juices, cut, and squeeze over the bowl.

Add in the sour cream.  Sprinkle with cumin and salt.  Mix up really well.

Serve with your favorite chips!

So, see that empty bowl there on the right?  The recipe is so good!  We scarfed it down like it was the only food we had to eat all weekend long.  Delish!!

Want to check out more recipes?  Click on some of the links below and see what other are cooking up today.

Handmade Tuesday's with Kristen

Weekending - The Float Trip

Well, I survived the float trip!  Not only did I survive it -- I loved it!  What a fabulous way to spend the weekend with great friends, floating down a river on a beautiful day.  Yep, this may become an annual thing.  Even though I was terrified a bit fearful of the float (expressed HERE), all my anxiety subsided after a little while on the river and it turned into pure joy.  Maybe the vodka gummie bears helped, but mostly I think it was just my friends putting me at ease and the beauty of my surroundings.  There were nine of us in this adventure.  Besides myself, we had Linda, Jodie, Janet, Dorothy, Mary, TW, Nick, and Debora.  It was so refreshing to get away with this great group of friends.  Wow - did we have fun!

Every good weekend trip needs a goody bag.  It was so much fun putting these together to welcome everyone to the weekend.  I'll be blogging more about these babies on Wednesday.

Let's start the recap with Friday.  I buzzed out of work after half day and met up with my friends TW and Nick to head to the cabin.  TW and Nick swung through St. Louis on their way through from Wisconsin to pick me up so we could travel to the cabin together.  I was super grateful because driving the three hour trip to our cabin in the woods would not have been as fun had I driven by myself.  As a matter of fact, our cabin was so deep in the woods I might have actually still been driving around trying to find it.  TW, on the other hand, drove us right there with very little backtracking.

The cabin we rented was one available from Riverfront Rental Cabins.  Honestly, it was even better in person than it was in the pictures on the website.  How often does that happen?!?  Riverfront provided our shuttle and rafts for the float also.  Nice job TW for finding this place!!  Our cabin (Cave Creek) was literally over the river and through the woods.  Perfect location for the nine of us to hang out for the weekend.  There will be more on the cabin on Thursday in my Thinking Out Loud post.  Wait until you see the pictures on the inside!

Bennett Springs

With five of us arriving at our cabin by late afternoon, TW whipped up his famous guacamole dip for us to snack on until dinner time.  This concoction is so good it deserves a post all by itself.  I'll be sharing the recipe on Tuesday.  As a matter of fact, we had so much good food this weekend I have several recipes I'll be sharing over the next couple weeks.

TW's guacamole recipe

When the last carload got in the area around 7:30 pm, we met for dinner in town.  We had pre-decided to eat dinner at a restaurant and not try to cook on our first night.  We choose Ollie's BBQ and Steakhouse.  This establishment was a winner!  We walked in the door of this joint and enjoyed our first evening laughing and drinking over some great food.  If you're in the Bennett Springs area, it's definitely worth checking out.  Nothing fancy, just some good food with friendly service.  And they didn't mind our loud laughter and boisterous behavior.

Finally got the hang of the selfie stick
After dinner, we headed back to our cabin in the woods to play cards and enjoy a special lemon cake Mary brought to celebrate TW and Janet's birthdays.

Yes, it was as good as it looked!
Saturday morning we woke to enjoy Dorothy's scones.  The recipe for her Cherry Vanilla scones can be found HERE.  Yum!  It would be wonderful to wake up to these everyday!

Our shuttle arrived and we piled in to start our adventure on the water.  Just about the time we were getting to the company store to buy ice, the skies opened and it rained hard for several minutes.  Then, just as fast as the rain came in, it was over.  Thank goodness!  Off to the river we went!

Our 7 mile float was on the Niangua River, which is a tributary of the Osage River in the Ozarks.  The water runs clear and cold.  We were so lucky to have had a day of perfect temperatures and beautiful clear water to float.  I'll let you see our trip through a few pictures.

Saturday night we were all a little tired.  After eating dinner, we played some cards and called it a night fairly early.

Sunday we all headed back home.  TW, Nick and I stopped by the waterfall we had seen on our way back to the cabin after the float to snap a few pictures.  The Bennett Springs state park is truly gorgeous.  I would love to go back in the fall when the leaves are turning.

We journeyed the three hours back to my house reminiscing of all the fun that was had during the last 36 hours.  Great weekend trip!  Can't wait to do this again.

When I got home, Eric and I had just enough time to run over to the Midwest Salute to the Arts and see the show.  We ran into some old friends -- so great catching up AND seeing some great art.

To cap off an already great weekend, I had some happy mail waiting for me when I got home.  Tracy had dropped this Alex and Ani bracelet in the mail to me.  Love, love, love it!!  Great friends are hard to find and I'm so very blessed to have some in my life.  Thank you Tracy!

As I read back over this post, I realize that my words just aren't expressing what a great weekend it was.  So much fun with great friends!  I hope you had a great weekend too and also hope you have wonderful friends in your life to share things with.  If you don't - FIND SOME!  Friends just make life so much richer!

Check out what others were up to this weekend.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Five on Friday - August 28, 2015

Welcome to Friday!  If you read my post from yesterday (HERE), you know what I'm up to this weekend -- I'm going on a float trip!  I'm so excited to be spending the weekend with friends and just a wee bit nervous about being in a raft floating down a river.

Before I head out this afternoon, here's my Five on Friday for this week.

1.  Adult Gummie Bears
For the last five days, I have been soaking a big bag of gummi bears in vodka.  I thought this would be the perfect snack for the above mentioned float trip.  Have you ever had these?  Here's the recipe I'm following:

3 lb. bag of Haribo Gold Bear gummi candies (I hear this brand is the best for holding its shape)
1 bottle of marshmallow vodka (I used Smirnoff Fluffed)
Some of another bottle of Pearl regular vodka (after day 2 the liquid was a little low)
2 cups of fruit punch

Put the candy in a glass container.  Make sure you break them up before adding the liquid.  Cover with vodka and slip it in the frig.  Stir a couple times a day and make sure the liquid stays over the candy.  On day 4, I added 2 cups of fruit punch.  I'll let you know if they're a hit next week, but from the sample I tasted I believe everyone will love them.

2.  Dr. Cool Kits
Have you ever really wanted to make a volcano at home?  Well apparently you don't have to be a real scientist to do it.  You just need one of these Dr. Cool Kits!  Made for people 6 years and older, this kit would be great for anyone interested in volcanoes, earth science or geology.  I'm thinking it would make a great birthday gift for that niece or nephew in your life.  If volcanoes aren't your thing, Dr. Cool Kits come in a variety of other subjects that kids would love.  Wish I would have known about these when Ian was little.  They would have made an awesome gift for him to give his friends at birthday parties.

Discover with Dr. Cool Ultimate Volcano Science Kit (Make a Volcano Erupt!)
Click HERE to purchase

3.  Duncan Hines Perfect Size Cake 
Now that we're a household of two, I'm so glad to become aware of these little babies -- Duncan Hines Perfect Size Cakes!  They come in 5 different flavors:  Chocolate Lovers, Red Velvet Dream, Lemon Bliss, Strawberries and Cream and Golden Fudge.  The pan and frosting are included.  If you have kids at home, these would also be the perfect size to scarf down before they get off the bus.
4. Roscato Rosso Dolce
Last weekend when Kayla and Ian came over to dinner, they brought a bottle of Italia Roscato with them.  Loved it!  Here's what Winery Notes has to say about it:  "Northern Italy provides a spectacular backdrop for Roscato, a violet-hued red with aromatic notes of cherry, blackberry and red raspberry. A touch of sweetness and bright acidity underlies the appeal of this charming wine."   Thanks for introducing us to this sparkling blush.

5.  Parenting Technique

I have a bonus item today.  If you are in the St. Louis area and want to do something fun this weekend, check out the Midwest Salute to the Arts.  This event is located in a beautiful park setting and has something for the entire family.  It's organized by a great group of very dedicated volunteers and my hat's off to them for consistently putting together a wonderful show.  Sorry I'm going to miss it this year.

Fairview Heights, Illinois

Have a truly fabulous weekend everyone!  Hope I survive the float trip to see you back here on Monday with my weekend recap.

Linking up with:
Simply Sweet Home
High Five for Friday
5 on Friday 
The Jenny Evolution
The New Mrs. Adventure
The Evolution of Mom
Why Girls Are Weird
This post contained affiliate links.  I may receive a small commission if you click on the link and purchase.  Thanks!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Thinking Out Loud Thursday - The Float Trip

Welcome to Thinking Out Loud Thursday with X-tremely V and me!  So glad you stopped by!  If you're a blogger, please link up one (or more) of your posts below.  We would love to hear what you're thinking out loud about today.

Today I'm thinking about the trip I'm taking this weekend with my friends.  We're doing a float trip in southern Missouri.  This trip has been on the calendar since February.  You can click here to see a post I wrote way back in the beginning about the planning of this adventure.  

As stated in that post, I'm scared to death a little nervous about floating.  You see, I'm scared of water.  WHAT?!? Yes, scared of water.  And I don't know how to swim very well.  Several years back my friend Tracy challenged all of us to make a list of things we wanted to get done.  She asks that at least one thing on the list be something outside our comfort zone.  I signed up for the YMCA's Adult TOW class.  TOW stands for "terrified of water".  Age range 18 to 99.  I met the criteria.  Paid my money and showed up at the pool for six weeks.  Six weeks of pure un-fun.  

When I arrived for my first lesson, the pool was full of women.  Some were older, some were my age and some were even younger.  I breathed a sign of relief to see so many other people in my same situation.  Then I realized all those women were there for the water aerobics class.  No - I needed to go over to the far end of the pool where they had 3 swimming lanes roped off.  Me and two teenagers made up this session of TOW.  The two other people stopped coming after week two and that left me and the instructor (a male who had just finished his first year of college) for four looooooonnnnnnnggggggg weeks.  

Bless his heart -- he tried so hard.  I actually kept thinking I need to leave a really big tip for him at the end of the six weeks.  He worked harder trying to teach me to swim than any waiter had ever tried keeping my water glass full.   He deserved, and had EARNED, a tip.

At this point, you might be asking yourself why on earth would I agree to go on a float trip.  Well, I just can't imagine not being there to share in all the fun.  I want to be a part of the stories we'll be telling for years that start with, "Remember on the float trip.....".  I'm the person that answers yes when your parents would question if your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?  Yes, yes I would jump if it meant having a bunch of laughs later.  I'm more than willing to try to push my fear aside to hang out with this great group of friends.

I like to think I could save myself if ever confronted with that situation, but honestly, I'm not really that sure I could.  So friends going with me this weekend -- I really love you and I'm putting my life in your hands.  (And let's try to get a better picture of all of us together with Debora in it!)

Now it's your turn -- what are you thinking out loud about today?  Link up to Thinking Out Loud Thursday with me and Vanessa at X-tremely Vanessa . The rules are simple.  Link back to me and Vanessa in your post and add your favorite post(s) below.  Super easy!  Tell all your friends to link up too.  The more the merrier.  We'd love for you to follow us too!  #ThinkingOutLoudThursdays

Enjoy more Thoughts for Thursday at
The Deliberate Mom
This is How We Roll

This post contained affiliate links.  I may receive a small commission if you click on the link and purchase.  Thanks!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

If you read my Weekending post from yesterday, you know that Saturday night we had Ian and Kayla over for dinner.  I decided to go a little retro and fix something that I hadn't made in years - Chicken Enchilada Casserole.  If you like cheese, this is the recipe for you!


This recipe was in a church cookbook circa 1980 and I've adapted it a couple times over the years.  The thought of blogging this recipe didn't come to me until well into the prep, so please forgive my lack of pictures.

Here's What You Need
About 2 pounds of chicken (I used boneless breasts)
Corn or Flour Tortillas
1 cup sour cream
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 Tbsp. taco sauce (I use mild, but if you like heat go for the hot)
1 lb. shredded cheddar cheese (yes, that lb. means pound, as in 16 ounces)
1 lb. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 - 4 oz. cans green chili peppers (diced)
2 Tbsp. (or more) chopped green onion

Here's What You Do
Cook chicken in salted water in a large cooking pot until tender.  As soon as it cools enough for you to touch it, shred it up.

In a bowl, mix together shredded chicken, sour cream, chicken soup, diced green chilies and taco sauce.

Place about 3 tablespoons of the chicken mixture into a tortilla, roll up and place in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.  Continue until the baking dish is full.  I usually get the large tortillas and use 7 out of the 8 in the package.  If you roll them pretty tight, you could easily use all 8.  (It was at this point that I realized I was going to blog this recipe, so let the pictures begin.)

Spread remaining chicken mixture over the top of the tortillas.

Spread the cheeses over the top.  I usually alternate between the cheddar and Monterey Jack.  It's a lot of cheese guys, so just push it down a little if you have to.

Sprinkle the chopped green onion on the cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes.

While the casserole is in the oven, you can whip up some Spanish rice and beans and you are all set for your Mexican fiesta!  Óle!

Handmade Tuesday's with Kristen

Weekending - Spent Totally At Home

This was the first weekend in I can't even remember when that we did no activities outside our house -- and it felt pretty good!  Not that I would want to do this every weekend, but every now and then it fits.

On my way home from work on Friday, I stopped by Michael's to grab some materials I needed to make the bridal shower touches I was doing for my friend.  All day I had been thinking about the things I wanted to get done when I got home.  Eric was working late so I knew I would have time to myself to really concentrate on projects I wanted to do at the house.  Well, that didn't happen!  I plopped myself in front of the TV with my bowl of Captain Crunch I was going to have for dinner, a magazine that came in the mail and started watching The Affair on Showtime.

I had heard some rumblings about this show in blogland and decided to give it a try.  Yes, season one was complete by Saturday morning.  #bingewatching  The show was different than I thought it was going to be.  There's a lot going on that is way against my moral values, but it was very intriguing.  Besides the affair happening, there's an underlying mystery of a murder.  At first you don't know who was killed or by whom.  At the end you still don't know who did it, but you do know who's dead.  Season two is scheduled to air October 4 on Showtime so if you want to jump on the bandwagon of watchers, you have a little time to catch up with season 1 if you haven't seen it.

Saturday we were going to head to a festival in the area, but woke to VERY cloudy skies, which in a short while turned into rain.  With plenty to do around the house, we decided to hang out and just get some stuff done.  While going through all the mail that was stacked up with things "I would get to later", I decided to give our cable provider a call to see if we could lower our bill.  Turns out after talking to the retention department we could get everything we needed for about $30 less a month.  Cha Ching!  Definitely worth the 10 minute wait time to talk to someone!

We invited our son and daughter-in-law, Ian and Kayla, over to dinner and were so happy they accepted.  Eric and I have a tendency to eat in front of the television in the family room.  Anyone else do this?  Well, Saturday night seemed like a good time to actually eat at the kitchen table.

I fixed one of those recipes that I hadn't fixed in years - Chicken Enchiladas.  They were as good as I remembered them being.  Recipe coming on Tuesday.


Sunday Eric had to work.  I honestly don't know what I did all day, but the time sure did go by fast.  I tried sitting outside in the morning to read a bit but that got cut short by the rain and cool temperatures.  When I came in I read some blogs and caught up with some emails.

One tangible thing I did get accomplished on Sunday was making these adorable baseballs to go on the paper placemats my friend will be using for a bridal shower she is hosting.  It was an easy project thanks to my Silhouette.


When Eric got off, we decided to be low key for dinner and he picked up Panda Express.  After a walk around the neighborhood, we curled up on the couch to watch Bachelor in Paradise.  Oh the drama!!  How many proposals do you see coming out of this season?

See -- I told you it was a very quiet few days!  What were you up to over the weekend?

Hope you guys have a great week and stop back by tomorrow to see the recipe I'll be sharing on the Chicken Enchiladas.

Check out what others were up to this weekend.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Five on Friday - August 21, 2015

Hello and welcome to Five on Friday!!  So excited we have a weekend coming at us in just a few short hours.  It's been a fun-filled week at our house.  Tuesday I had banana split night with a couple friends, Wednesday we enjoyed going to the Cardinals game and seeing them grab a win over the Giants, Thursday I had an open house at a downtown hotel.  Wow -- don't know how I'm going to top all that fun this weekend, but I'm going to give it my best shot.

Before the official weekend begins, let me share my Five on Friday for this week.

1.  Munch Mitt
Since I'm going to be an aunt again in hopefully less than a month, I've been more alert when I see baby products pop up.  A Facebook friend of mine (thanks Ashley) posted a picture of her adorable little guy with one of these Munch Mitts on and it looked like something every baby should have.  The Munch Mitt teether is the solution to the constant dropping of teething toys.  The textured flexible silicone provides soothing teething relief.  Sounds like it would be great to have while travelling in the stroller or car seat.  Suggested use is from 3 months - 8 months or until they are able to remove the mitt themselves.
Munch Mitt Baby Teething Mitten - Green
Click HERE to purchase
As a bonus, here is Ashley's adorable babe enjoying his Munch Mitt.  Is that not the cutest face!?!

2.  Free Book on Braids
Okay ladies with long locks, here's one for you!  Kerastase is offering a free, downloadable book on braids.  So wish I could have nice, thick flowing hair that I could braid!  For those of you that do, hope you enjoy this freebie.  Get yours here:
3. Pecan Pie M&Ms
Although Fall doesn't official start until September 23, the stores are getting prepared now.  Look what flavor M&M's are available in - pecan pie.  Think anyone will have a bowl of these on the Thanksgiving table instead of the real deal?!?  These babies are available in Walmart stores now. Anyone tried them yet?

Pecan Pie M&M’s? Yes Please!

4.  Fireflies in a Jar
I saw this on Lush Zone and had to share.  What a fun thing to do with the kids on these wonderful summer evenings.

5.  Stay positive....

Have a great weekend!  I have a project to work on for a friend who's helping host a bridal shower and I want to get some goody bags together for my float trip next weekend.  Other than that, we don't really have any definite plans.  I'm sure we'll find something to do that's fun!  Hope you do too!  See you back on Monday for a recap.

Linking up with:
Simply Sweet Home
High Five for Friday
5 on Friday 
The Jenny Evolution
The New Mrs. Adventure
The Evolution of Mom
Why Girls Are Weird
This post contained affiliate links.  I may receive a small commission if you click on the link and purchase.  Thanks!