Penny's Passion: June 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

Let's Bake a Blackberry Buckle

Remember my post HERE where I talked about picking blackberries?  Well, we celebrated our June birthdays at work last week and since I still had 49203942820 a lot of blackberries in my refrigerator, I decided to scan recipes calling for these berries.

I was in the mood to make something new and started search in (love that site).  After a bit of perusing, I decided to give Chef John's Blackberry Buckle a try.  I had no idea who "Chef John" was, but the reviews were good so I decided to trust him.  By the way -- curiosity got the best of me so I did a little research.  I found out Chef John does online cooking videos and can be found on Food Wishes blog.  I think he and I are going to become BFFs.

Here's the ingredient list:

3 cups of fresh blackberries
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup almond meal (I hadn't used this before and found it at our Fresh Thyme store)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 cup milk
7 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, or to taste

Step by step:

~ Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

~ Stir blackberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, and vanilla extract together in a bowl; let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.  (I went ahead with mixing the batter and the 15 minutes disappeared.)

~ Whisk flour, 3/4 cup sugar, almond meal, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl.  Stir milk into flour mixture until batter is just combined.

~ Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium-high heat; pour into the bottom of a 8 x 12 inch baking dish.  Pour batter over melted butter into the baking dish, using a spatula to gently distribute batter without mixing it into the butter, leaving a 1-inch butter border around the sides of the dish.

~ Scatter blackberries over the batter and spoon any accumulated blackberry juices over the top.

~ Bake buckle in the preheated oven until crisped and browned around the edges, about 1 hour.  Mine did not take quite an hour.  More like 50 minutes.

~ Melt remaining butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook and stir almonds in hot butter until golden brown and toasted, 2 to 3 minutes.  Sprinkle toasted almonds over blackberry buckle and cool buckle to room temperature.

End result - yep, it was good.  Just look at this berry goodness!

Not quite as sweet as a cobbler, but very flavorful.  Truth be told, I ended up making two of them because I got involved in a lengthy phone call with one of my friends and totally overcooked the first one.  Eric and I kept it at home and had no problem finishing it off.  The second one, cooked properly, made it to my office for my coworkers to enjoy.  Hope you enjoy it too!

Handmade Tuesday's with Kristen

Weekending - June 26, 2015

Weekending.  Seems like I squeezed a month of fun in this weekend and there were still things I didn't get to participate in.

The weekend started off with some happy mail I received Friday from my blogger friend Michelle.  She blogs over at Grammie Time and we've enjoyed getting to know each other through our blogs.  LOVE getting thoughtful things like this in the mail!  Thanks, Michelle!

First, let's talk about the two things I wish I could have done.  My sorority sisters had a little get together in Kansas City on Friday night and I had elected to stay home and go to the Muny with Eric, Ian and Kayla.  Ian and Kayla decided they were not going to go, but we decided to go without them.  The weather looked pretty ominous on Friday but we were hopeful that we wouldn't have to sit in the rain for the second week in a row.  Even though the show was good, I'd seen it before and could definitely have skipped it.  I should have gone to KC earlier for the sorority gathering.  Next time Alpha Xi sisters -- I'll be there!

The second thing I missed was a Pampered Chef party Kayla's sister was having.  I love Pampered Chef products and attending one of their parties really is a thrill for me.  So, if you're having a party, live in the St. Louis area, and need attendees -- look me up.  Most likely I'll show up.  I love their stuff that much.

Now -- let's check out the things I did do!  Friday night Eric and I headed to the Muny to see Hairspray.  We only stayed for the first half.  Good performance and the weather held out even though before the show started the clouds had me a little less than optimistic that we wouldn't be getting some rain. Believe it or not, I actually got cold!  That was one reason we decided to leave at intermission.  Don't really anticipate being cold at any of the other Muny performance this summer!

After we got home, I worked on our shower gift for Sunday night's shower until 2:00 am.  I was going to etch some wine glasses, but I couldn't get the layout quite right so I decided non-etched glasses would make a perfect gift.  I did download these tags that had a poem for some special events in the newlyweds upcoming year.  There are six tags available and I chose to use four of them:  Wedding Night, Christmas Eve, First Dinner Party and First Anniversary.  I tied the tags on the bottles and put them in a tub we purchased off the couple's registry.  Added the glasses and a few monogrammed items I had gotten.  Viola!  Just like that (and a couple hours later) we had a fun gift
to take to the shower.

A mere few hours after we went to bed, we were up again to head to Kansas City.  Linda and I were going to The Rolling Stones concert (I know, I've mentioned that several times over the last few weeks) and I was pumped!!  St. Louis to Kansas City is only a 4 hour drive and that seemed like a short distance to travel to have the opportunity to cross something off your bucket list.

Before the concert, we had dinner at Jack Stack BBQ with a group of friends.  It was our first time at this Kansas City barbecue joint and it was delicious!  I had burnt ends (beef and pork) and some of their famous cheesy corn.  I must find a copy cat recipe for the corn!  We also tried their cucumber jalapeno infused margarita. So good!

Here's most of our group that was headed to the Stones.  The weather was perfect and the night was fantastic.  This may have been my first Stones concert, but I'm hoping it won't be my last.  Mick Jagger can still bust a move.  Did you know he is going to be 72 in July?  Boy, I hope I'm still able to skip like that when I'm that age!

Sunday morning we were up bright and early to drive to Memphis for our nephew's couples shower.  It was a beautiful day for a Sunday drive.  Seven-and-a-half hours later we arrived in Memphis and checked into the hotel.  Through Priceline, we did a name your own price deal and got the Peabody!!  So happy to get to stay at this hotel.  It is fantastic.

No sooner than we got to the hotel, we needed to hop back in the car and head to the shower.  Josh and Marissa (the bride and groom) make a lovely couple and we are so looking forward to their big day in July.  Just love this couple!

We're going to be doing a little sight seeing in the morning before heading back to St. Louis.  Sun Studio is on the agenda and so is Central BBQ.  

Hope you guys had a fantastic weekend!  I'll be sharing a blackberry recipe this week that you won't want to miss.  See you soon!

Check out what others were up to this weekend.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Five on Friday - June 26, 2015

WooHoo -- Friday has arrived and this is one happy chick to see it get here!  I have an action packed weekend ahead and I'm so ready to get it started.  But before I head out, here's my Five on Friday.

1.  Godiva Trufflelata
Do you have a Godiva chocolate store near you?  If so, RUN to it and get yourself one of their trufflelata drinks.  BEST.DRINK.EVER!  My favorite is the salted caramel.  If that flavor doesn't suit your fancy, they come in six other flavors:  mint chocolate chip, chocolate lava cake, mike chocolate, hazelnut crunch, strawberry creme and oreo.  Come on, tell me one of those flavors isn't your favorite.  Every time I'm in the mall with our nearest Godiva chocolate store, you can see me strolling around sipping on this decadent treat.

2.  Priceline Name Your Own Price
Searching for a hotel room for an upcoming trip?  Well, you should consider using Priceline's Name Your Own Price.  I'm hooked on it!  Eric and I were in need of a hotel in Memphis for this coming Sunday night.  I put in my bid and we'll be staying at the Peabody for a fraction of their normal rate.  I've used them quite a bit and have had great success.  Have you used it before?  I'd love to hear your money-saving stories.

3.  Quick Stir Pitcher
Eric and I are trying to drink less soda these days so we're using our Pampered Chef Quick-Stir Pitcher on a daily basis.  Love this thing!  It's perfect for mixing powdered drinks like our Crystal Light teas and lemonade.  Just a few tugs on the plunger and you're ready to enjoy your beverage.  It would also be great if you have little ones around wanting to "help" stir.  Spills and spatters would definitely be minimized.

4.  Sticker Removal Tip
My friend Tammy gave me the best tip this week -- Using a blow dryer, blow hot air on the sticker for a few minutes.  The sticker will pull right off in its' entirety.  No joke!  I tried it on some glasses that I bought and, sure enough, the labels peeled right off without leaving any of that sticky goo.  Why am I just now learning about this handy tip?!?

5.  Thought....
Thinking positive is just as easy as thinking negative! So think positive #recovery #addiction

Do you have plans for the next couple of days?  We are seeing Hairspray tonight at the Muny (keeping my fingers crossed for no rain).  Tomorrow morning I'm headed to Kansas City so Linda and I can go the The Stones concert.  Yes, The Rolling Stones!!!  And as if seeing the Stones wasn't enough, guess who's opening for them.  Ed Sheeran!!  No joke.  Check that off my bucket list.  Then Sunday we're driving to Memphis for a couple's shower.  I told you it was action packed!  Hope you stop back by on Monday to hear all about it.

Linking up with:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Thinking Out Loud Thursday - June 25, 2015

Welcome to this week's Thinking Out Loud Thursday!  Thanks for stopping by and joining me and Vanessa.

X-tremely V

With summer officially starting last Sunday, I'm thinking about all the fun this season brings.  After a week's worth of rain, we are now into hot weather here in St. Louis.  And longer days -- which is great.  It's amazing how much more I get done in the summer just because it stays light outside longer.  Thank you Mr. Sunshine for hanging around for an extended time.  Anyone else experience this phenomenon?!?

I used to love it when Ian was a toddler because with the longer days we actually got to play outside when I got home from work.  It was so much fun watching him run around having the best time of his life!  I can still remember that stinky little boy smell from sweating the afternoon away.  And the bath water being a murky tan color after his bath!  Sure signs he had had an exceptionally fun time playing outside.

Ian loved playing in his Little Tikes yard toy.  Boy, did that thing take a beating from him and his friends!  It amazes me that 22 years later, Little Tikes is still making a very similar piece of play equipment. 

Click HERE to purchase
Playing in the sprinkler was definitely a highlight for him, too.  He absolutely adored the sprinkler his Grandma Helen gave him for his second birthday.  If his birthday had been in the summer, I sure could decorated his entire party in a fireman's theme and let the kids soak themselves with this in the backyard.  

Contrary to the above pictures, I promise he did sometimes wear a shirt in the summer.  But the warm weather usually did make clothing optional.  :)

Even though Ian is all grown up, I still enjoy spending time doing summer stuff with him.  This year we purchased season tickets to the Muny, our outside theater in St. Louis.  It's a bonus that we get to spend time with his wife, Kayla, also.  

What kind of fun outdoor things are on your agenda for the summer?  We better get busy checking things off the list because summer usually goes by in a blink of an eye.  And moms out there -- hold tight to your little ones and take lots of pictures because they really do grow up so fast!

Now the fun part -- 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 linkup your favorite post below.  Super easy!  #ThinkingOutLoudThursdays

Enjoy more Thoughts for Thursday at

Monday, June 22, 2015

Weekending - June 19, 2015

Boy, oh boy -- could a weekend go by any faster?!?  We were pretty busy this weekend.  But, to be honest, that's how I like to spend my time between Friday afternoon and Monday morning.

Friday night we went to our first Muny show of the season.  The Muny is an outdoor theater located in Forest Park here in St. Louis and we love sitting under the stars to see the production of the week.

This week instead of sitting under the stars to see My Fair Lady, we were sitting under the clouds that kept dropping rain on us on and off most of the night.  We stuck it out to the bitter end -- which was 1:00 am.  Longest show of all time for me.  I might have dozed a little there at the end.  It was still great to spend the night with Kayla and Ian.  It's going to be a great Muny season!  This week we will be seeing Hairspray.

Saturday morning we got up and headed to my hometown to celebrate Father's Day with my dad.  My mom prepared a great lunch and then we went to see my dad's garden.  We always have a race with him to see who has the first ripe tomato of the season and I do believe ours are a bit bigger than his. We also got to see my brother's new house that he is building for his family.  Unfortunately, I didn't snap a single picture while we there - major blogger fail!

We met Kayla and Ian for breakfast on Sunday morning - Happy Father's Day to Eric!  Eckert's is the local orchard you're probably seen me blog about before and they have a great restaurant with lots of hearty things on the menu.  They have these little fried dough balls they sit on the table with apple butter - OMG are they delicious!!

After eating, Eric and I decided we weren't going to let the pouring rain stop us from picking blackberries.  We put on our boots and loaded the tram to the blackberry fields.

Just look at the size of these berries!  The bushes were loaded.  I think they are going to be picking for a while so if you're in the area and want some blackberries, you should check out their website for the picking schedule.

Twelve pounds of picked berries later, we loaded the tram back to our car.  We stopped at Walmart on the way home to get canning supplies since I wanted to turn some of those big, juicy gems into jam.

Just about the time we were finishing picking, the sun came out.  We got to enjoy the sunny (and very steamy) weather for a couple hours before the clouds returned.  Eric headed to work and Sherri came over.  We grabbed a salad to go from one of our favorite places and enjoyed it in our family room while catching up on all the latest news.

Sunday evening I canned.  I'm now the VERY proud owner of 5 jars of jelly.  I would be lying if I said it went smoothly -- the berries boiled over on the stove and it was a total mess!  But, the jelly turned out so I'm counting it as a very successful event.  It really wasn't that hard to do.  I might just do it again tonight since I still have about 11-1/2 pounds of blackberries left.

How was your weekend?  From the looks of things on Facebook, it was a very family-oriented weekend with lots of Father's Day celebrations.  Hope yours was one to remember!

Check out what others were up to this weekend.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hello Sunshine Swap Reveal

Not too long ago, my friend Michelle over at Grammie Time sent me a note about the Hello Sunshine swap.  She knew from reading my blog how much I love doing swaps AND how much I love getting happy mail.  I thanked her for the heads up on the swap and quickly got myself signed up.  


I was matched up with Holly from Gyspy Road  blog.  I had so much fun gathering things for her box.  Here's a pic of what was sent her way.  I found the adorable Box of Sunshine printable HERE.

Holly sent me some great summer reading material and a cookbook.  Can't wait to pick a few recipes and give them a try.

Thanks Always, Abby and Mrs. AOK for hosting this fun swap.  Can't wait to do it again next year!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Five on Friday - June 19, 2015

Friday -- you really sneaked up on me!  But here we are and I most certainly am not going to complain about having a weekend ahead of me.  I'm really looking forward to celebrating Father's Day with my dad tomorrow.  He's the best dad ever!  We'll be travelling back to the small town in mid Missouri that I grew up in to see him.

And now for my Five on Friday for this week ~

1.  Martini Day
As we all get ready for Father's Day on Sunday, let's not overlook what today is ~ National Martini Day.  My favorite martini is a pomegranate one.  My version is super simple to make -- just use one part Pearl pomegranate vodka to two parts pomegranate juice.  I like to use the Langer's Zero Calorie pomegranate juice ~ it makes me feel like I'm drinking a low cal drink.  Mix it, shake it and pour.  Cheers!

2.  No Wait App
Remember a couple weeks ago when I talked about going to the restaurant Peacemaker, well Eric and I used this cool No Wait App.  We figured there would be a long wait -- and we were right.  We checked on our cool No Wait app and it said there was a 75 minute wait.  We were able to check in with the app and start our wait time before we even left the house.  When we arrived, we just told the hostess we were there, got a drink at the bar and 10 minutes later were at our table.  Worked out great!  Have you used it before?

3.  Nola Honey & Aloe Vera Anti-Aging Facial Cleaning Wipes
Tracy had these in her Tracy's favorite things Christmas package this year and I'm in love with them!  They do a wonderful job removing makeup and leave your face feeling fantastic.  I've been using them before bed and they make my face feel so soft I don't even have to use lotion afterwards.

Honey & Aloe Vera Anti-Aging Facial Cleaning Wipes 30 Count Pack
Available on Amazon HERE

4.  Galleria Big Flower Folding Umbrella
It's been rainy all week in St. Louis.  Wouldn't it be fun to have this flower umbrella!  It folds up to a size you can slip in your purse and opens to a nice large size that will cover you when the rain is coming down.  Even though the weather is kind of gloomy, this bright umbrella would bring some cheer to the day.
Available on Amazon HERE
5.  True Chick Flick....

Have a great weekend everyone!  I'll be back on Monday to let you know how mine went down.  We are supposed to go to an outdoor theater tonight to see My Fair Lady, but the weather might not allow that to happen.  Keep your fingers crossed that the rain stops long enough for us to get in the show!

Linking up with:

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Thinking Out Loud Thursday - June 18, 2015

Hey, hey -- Happy Thursday!!  Glad you stopped by another edition of Thinking Out Loud Thursday.

X-tremely V

It's been organizing season at my house recently.  If you saw my Weekending post, you know that Kelsey did a fantastic job whipping my craft room back into shape.  (BTW, I'm 4 days in and it's still looking good.)  The next big project is my pantry.  If you don't see me for a few days, it means I could have gotten lost under all the junk in there.  Please come look for me!!

Every time I try to conquer cleaning out the pantry, I run into the same quandary -- how long is the shelf life of this or that.  Most items I keep in the pantry have the date stamped right on the outside someplace so it makes it pretty easy to weed through those items.  Check out some of these food storage shelf lives!  Who knew you could actually will your wheat to your kids and it would still be good.

How long will my food storage last? These dates are way off. Grains contain oil that breaks down. I'd like to know how long they truly last.

And what about when you're cleaning out the frig?  Just how long are those leftovers going to last? When I buy items at the store, how long are they still good?

101 Cooking for Two - Cheat Sheets" Shelf Life of Food

I better get busy cleaning out the pantry while I'm still in the mood.  Oh wait, I think the mood might have already passed.  Hopefully it will come back soon!

Now the fun part -- 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 linkup your favorite post below.  Super easy!  #ThinkingOutLoudThursdays

Enjoy more Thoughts for Thursday at

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lemon Cool Whip Cookies

Tonight I'm headed to a potluck dinner with a group of ladies from church.  My designated dish to bring is dessert.  Because of the timing of the gathering, I'm usually running straight there from work so the item I bring to the potluck has to be toted with me to work that morning in case I don't have time to swing by the house before the start time.

Keeping all that in mind, I chose a lemon cool whip cookie recipe I had pinned from Eating On A Dime.  I love lemony desserts in the summer and this one sounded both simple and delicious.  Turns out -- it WAS simple and delicious!

The ingredient list is short:

1 box lemon cake mix
1 tub of Cool Whip (8 oz.)
1 egg
1/2 to 1 cup powdered sugar

Here's what you do:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray your cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

2.  Mix together the cake mix, cool whip and egg.  This mix will be very fluffy.  Make sure you keep mixing until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

3.  Use a small cookie scoop or two spoons to drop rounded cookie dough balls into the powdered sugar.  Roll the dough around in the powdered sugar until it is completely covered.  Set the cookies on the cookie sheet 2 inches apart.

4.  Pop in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until very lightly golden around the edges.  I baked mine on the 10 minutes side of the range.  It just seemed they were still a little raw at the 8 minute mark.  Let them cool on the cookie sheet for a couple minutes then move them to wire racks to cool completely.

This recipe makes about two-and-a-half dozen cookies.  They can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container.  Over at Eating On A Dime, they said they are best eaten within a day or two of baking.

These little lemon cookies were so simple to make and taste so fantastic, I'm already planning to bring them to our monthly birthday celebration at work.  I'm also thinking of whipping up a batch for Father's Day since Eric LOVED them.

Thanks Eating On a Dime for this fabulous recipe.  Happy baking!

Handmade Tuesday's with Kristen