Penny's Passion: December 2015

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve - 2015 Review

Happy New Year's Eve!  Today I'm thinking out loud about how excited I am for 2016.  The beginning of a new year is so refreshing to me.  It gives us a chance to start all over with a clean slate.
2015 was a fun year for me and my blog and 2016 is going to be even better.  Today I'm thinking out loud about some of my favorite posts.  One of them was a two part blog I did in honor of my best friend Linda's daughter, Haley, turning 21.  

There was a lot of recipe sharing.  The goal is to post a recipe every Tuesday.  I've looked through my recipe box (yes, I still have recipes written on those little recipe cards) and have lots to share in 2016.  According to Google Analytics, these were my top three for 2015:

One of my personal favorites was the tribute to my son's nanny, Helen.  She was a huge part of our lives and we miss her.  

Hope each of you reflect back on 2015 with happy thoughts and join me in looking forward to making 2016 an amazing year.  Thank you so much for reading my little space in cyberland!  It's been so fun reading your comments and getting to know some of you.  

I'll be back on Monday with my weekend recap.  Until then, be safe and Happy New Year!

Linking Up With

Monday, December 28, 2015

Dijon Sirloin Tips

Disclosure:  There are not going to be a lot of pictures in this post.  Kayla and Ian were here when I was making this scrumptious entree and we were just too busy chatting it up for me to remember to stop and take pictures at every step.

But no worries ~ if I can make this recipe, you definitely can too!  And you won't be sorry you tried it! This is one of our family favorites and I busted it out on Christmas Eve for us to enjoy.

Dijon Sirloin Tips

Here's What You Need
1-1/4 pounds sirloin tips, cubed
2 tablespoons butter or margarine (use butter)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup whipping cream
Hot cooked noodles
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Here's What You Do
1.  In a large skillet, brown meat in butter and oil; transfer to a 2 quart baking dish with a lid.

2.  In the same skillet, saute mushrooms and garlic until mushrooms are tender.  This should take around 3 minutes.

3.  Pour mushrooms and liquid over meat.  Cover and bake at 300 degrees for 2 hours or until meat is tender.

(I usually do the next steps after the meat has been in the oven for about an hour and a half.)

4  In the same skillet, combine broth, vinegar and soy sauce; bring to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes; set aside.

5.  Combine mustard, cornstarch and cream; stir into broth mixture.  Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

6.  Drain juices from baking dish into broth mixture.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly.

7.  Add beef mixture.  Serve over noodles.  Garnish with parsley if desired.

Dijon Sirloin Tips

The recipe says this makes 4 servings.  Many times I've simply doubled it and it is still amazing.  The leftovers are great too!  I have no idea where this recipe originated, but my friend Tammy is the one that shared it with me.  I will be forever grateful to her!  So will the guests I serve it to!

Handmade Tuesday's with Kristen

Weekending - December 26, 2015

Is today really Monday?  I swear when I'm off for more than a couple day I totally lose track of what day it is.  But the calendar shows me it's Monday so let me recap my last few days.

Saturday was a total lounge day.  It was a day that I didn't get out of my jammies all day long!  Haven't had one of those in ages ~ and it felt GOOD!  I did write a recap of Christmas post.  Oh, and I also binged watched How to Get Away With Murder and am totally caught up with this season. Now I'm anxiously awaiting February 11 to see just what happens next.

Since I was so comfortable laying in my bed on Friday, I also caught up on Married at First Sight.  Each episode of that show is like a little mini marriage counseling session.  Anybody else love that show?

The only true productive thing I did on Saturday besides running the dishwasher (doesn't that count as productive?!?) was read the book Simplify:  7 Guiding Principles to Help anyone Declutter Their Home and Life.  The Kindle version is on sale right now on Amazon for $2.99.  Well worth it.  Click HERE to purchase.  I'm not interested in living in a tiny house or anything that drastic, but I do have a lot of clutter and definitely have a desire to get rid of it.  This book motivated me and gave me some ideas of what I want to get rid of and where I want to start.

Sunday was a special day for two reasons.  First we got to babysit my nephew for a few hours.  He is the best little guy!  He was a real trooper for letting me take 5994839 a lot of pictures of him.

 When faces like this started I think he was trying to tell me he'd had enough.

Sunday evening we headed to my mother-in-law's house to celebrate Christmas.  It was great catching up with her and sharing a meal.

I had picked up a quiche from Sugaree Baking Company in the part of St. Louis referred to as Dogtown.  This quaint little bakery has amazing treats.  My friend Tracy had given me a quiche and a pot pie from there on my birthday and now I'm hooked.  Their business model is a little different ~ they send you an email on Monday.  You have until Wednesday to order and then pickup is Friday and Saturday.  Cash or check only.  We've tried several of their items and haven't been disappointed yet!

Now it's Monday and I need to start knocking items off my to-do list.  My inbox is still at 5,148 so I think I'm going to hit that hard today.  We are also meeting Ian, Kayla and Kayla's parents for dinner and games tonight.  Yay!  It will be a fun evening with lots of laughs.

Hope you're off to a wonderful start of the last few days of 2015!  I'm sharing the recipe tomorrow for the Dijon Sirloin Tips.  You won't want to miss it so I hope you stop back by!  Happy Monday everyone!

Check out what others were up to this weekend.
Bella and the City
A Cute Angle
The Quinntessential Mommy
How To Get Organized At Home
This post contained affiliate links.  I may receive a small commission if you click on the link and purchase.  Thanks!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Day After Christmas

Merry Christmas (one day late) everyone!  Hope you survived the holiday season.  I took last week off the blog so I could focus on some real life stuff I had going on around here.  Now I'm back with a ton of stuff to chat about!

Last weekend something wonderful happened in our family ~ my brother, Ernie, got engaged!  His now fiancee, Carina, is a wonderful lady and a pure joy to be around.  I'm so very excited for them!  They started the evening by meeting me, Eric, Ian and Kayla for dinner.  After dinner, they headed over to Tilles Park's Winter Wonderland to see the lights.

Winter Wonderland 30 Years

Their engagement story is a great one!  Christmas is Carina favorite time of year so my brother wrapped the proposal into a trip through Tilles Park's Christmas light display.  The park offers an engagement package which includes a carriage ride through their fantastic display of lights and near the end the carriage driver pulls down a private lane.  My brother had been secretly given a remote before the ride began and when he hit it, a sign saying "Will You Marry Me" lit up.  Is that not the coolest thing?!?   So excited that she said yes!!  Wish I could have been hiding in the bushes to see the whole thing go down live.

Each Christmas I try very hard to put a lot of thought into the presents I give.  I know how much I love getting presents that are heartfelt so I try to do the same for others.  Of course there are the times when I'm totally stumped and just have to settle on some random thing, but I digress...   So this year one of the gifts I gave was a hand sewn (by me) pillow for my daughter-in-law Kayla.  She's a huge Jane Austen/Pride and Prejudice fan so I found some fabric with Jane Austin quotes and thought I could whip up a pillow for her.  (Did I mention I'm not a seamstress?)  Well, after much help from my friend at work, Kay, and a lot of cursing, this is the finished project.

I have to admit, I was pretty darn proud of myself.  Kayla loved it and that made making it totally worth the time and worry.  Did you make any of your gifts this year?

Eric and I enjoyed having Ian and Kayla spend Christmas Eve with us.  I made one of our favorite entrees, Dijon Sirloin Tips.  I'll be sharing the recipe with you on Tuesday and you won't want to miss it!

Then on Christmas day we all headed to my parents.  Everyone from my immediate family was together and it was great! Anytime our family is together, the chess board comes out.  It always warms my heart to see Ian playing chess with his cousins.  My dad taught Ian to play when he was little and Ian has enjoyed passing on his skills to his cousins.

My youngest nephew, Liam, enjoyed his first Christmas and pretty much stole the show.  Isn't he the cutest!!  I can't believe he's three months old already.  

Another thing I was busy doing last week was reading Oasis:  The Last Humans, Book 1.  I received a free preview copy in exchange for writing a review.  The email asked if I was a fan of dystopian/ post-apocalyptic sci-fi novels?  I didn't think so.  Did I enjoy The Hunger Games, Divergent or Ender's Game?  Heck yes!  So I signed right up and got chosen.  My honest opinion is it's not as good as The Hunger Games or Divergent.  It was interesting and if you like those types of books you should check it out.  I'm going to give it another try now that the holidays are finished and I can enjoy reading a bit more than when I was thinking about all the holiday stuff I needed to be doing every time I sat down to read.  

Speaking of the holidays, I'm off work now until Monday, January 4.  Every year I take off and every year I have a list of things I want to get done that is longer than Santa's naughty and nice lists.  Here's some of the things I'm hoping to check off:

1.  My phone shows me I have 5,263 messages in my inboxes.  I'm not making up that number - it really says 5,263.  That's too many.  I would like to at least cut it in half, if not a fourth.  Wish me luck!

2.  I've been saving the entire season of How To Get Away with Murder to binge watch over the holidays.  It's supposed to be raining here for the next three days.  Sounds like the perfect time to stay in my jammies, veg on the couch and see just what Annalise Keating has been up to.  I feel pretty good about getting this item checked off the list.


3.  Plan out some future blog posts.  I'm determined that 2016 is going to be a great year for the blog.  When I started this little space in June of 2014 I didn't really know where I wanted it to go.  Over the last year-and-a-half I've learned so many things and have so many ideas.  Hope you join me in my journey this coming year!  If you don't want to miss anything, click Join This Site on the right side of this space. 

Okay, enough of my randomness for today!  Hope you have a wonderful weekend and are getting excited for the new year.  I have a feeling that 2016 is going to be a great one!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Five on Friday - December 18, 2015

Oh boy - are you ready for the last weekend before Christmas?!?  I have a feeling this is going to be a wild one.  I'm still not done shopping.  As a matter of fact, I desperately need to do an inventory to even know what I have and what I need!  Every year I think I'm going to get it all together early and then life happens.  But hey, as long as I'm ready before next Friday nobody will really know the difference so I'm still thinking I'm in good shape.  Two words - Amazon Prime.  My best friend this week.

Before I head out to start my gift inventory, here's my five for this week ~

1.  Anne Taintor, Inc. Luggage Tag
I'm in love with these adorable luggage tags.  Raise your hand if you would love one in your stocking.  My hand is up.  You can purchase this with Amazon Prime, so if you order today it will arrive just in time to slip it in those stockings.  I'm also thinking these would be adorable for a gift at girls weekend.  Click on over and take a peek ~ there are quite of few designs to choose from.

Click HERE to purchase
2.  ScentSicles
One of the things I used to miss about having a "real" tree was the pine scent throughout the house.  Well, a few years ago my friend Carol surprised me with these ScentSicles.  The fresh scent of live Christmas tree fills your house.  You can hang them in your tree and enjoy the scent of Christmas just like if you went to the woods and cut down your tree yourself.
scent for your tree

3.  Pentatonix That's Christmas to Me CD
Eric and I had the pleasure of hearing Pentatonix live this week in a concert and I'm even more hooked on them than I was before!  They sounded AMAZING!  Now I want to add their Christmas CD to my collection.  The group offers a little bit of everything on this $8.00 CD by providing a combination of classic holiday songs, modern favorites and a one-of-a-kind holiday mash-up.  Yes, I want this playing on our stereo when we celebrate Christmas this year!

Pentatonix Christmas CD
Click HERE to purchase
4.  Sisters
I know almost everyone is going gaga over the Star Wars movie coming out this weekend, but I'm super excited to see Sisters with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.  The two of them together just make me laugh - and who couldn't use a good laugh every now and again?!?  If you can't find me under all the Christmas wrapping paper, check the theater because I might just abandon my duties and head to the movies to catch this comedy.

5.  I like this way of thinking....

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!  I've got lots of stuff in the works ~ we're headed to a new bakery tomorrow morning, hopefully my brother Ernie and his family are coming over Saturday night to see the lights with us at Our Lady of the Snows Shrine, and I have book club at my house on Sunday.  Fun, fun, fun!  Oh, and there's finishing the Christmas shopping too!  Better get to it ~ see you soon!

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

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Thinking Out Loud Thursday - Reveal

Hello!  Can you believe it's Thursday already?!?  I've had a super busy week -- as I'm sure many of you have also.  You may recall a few weeks ago my partner in crime on Thinking Out Loud Thursdays, Vanessa, hosted a Christmas Cheer Box Swap.  Well today is the big reveal.  I've been dying to share with you what I received because my items were just so darn cute!

First, I have to give credit where credit is due.  The person sending me my package was Holly over at While I'm Waiting.  Oh my goodness did she nail the package she sent to me!  Just look at how adorable it was from the minute I opened the box...

Holly also included the sweetest note.

It was so sweet of her to search through my old posts and really learn what I had in my house to make her gifts to me so special.  Now that is the way to pick perfect presents!  Let's take a look at what she picked.

Each item in my box fit PERFECTLY in my Christmas decor.  Holly -- I absolutely LOVE each of them.  Thank you so much for taking the time out of this busy season to add your special touch to my home!  

The blender ornament blends (pun intended) into my baking themed tree I have in the kitchen.  Can you find it?!?  Believe me, it's the cutest little thing ever hanging front and center.

The beautiful snowflake is a wonderful addition to the nature tree we have in our family room.  When the light hits the center crystal, it simmers with the glow of the season.

The wood tree is sitting next to the container where we keep our Christmas cards.  Doesn't it look adorable there?!?

And lastly, but certainly not least, is the precious bird.  He is keeping watch over us as he peeks out from the coffee table centerpiece.

 I love, love, love all these fantastic new additions to our Christmas decor.  Thank you Holly for your thoughtful gifts.  You have added an extra smile to our holiday season!  If you haven't read her blog, you should definitely check it out.  While I'm Waiting

Thanks too, Vanessa, for hosting this year's Christmas Cheer Swap Box.  The box I received definitely added some extra cheer to our holiday season!

Now it's your turn -- what's on your mind this Thursday?  Vanessa over at X-tremely V and I would love to hear from you.  Link up below and share with us what you're thinking out loud about today.

Enjoy more Thoughts for Thursday at

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Let's Make Chocolate Covered Peanuts

With the holidays right around the corner, you might be looking for a quick, easy candy to whip up to give as gifts or serve to guests.  Well, look no further!  I have a winner for you to try - Chocolate Covered Peanuts.

Believe it or not, I got this recipe from my sorority sister Becky Hargus (now Wright) 33 years ago.  So for 33 years, I've been whipping up these easy chocolate covered peanuts and my friends have been loving them.  Becky and I lived in the sorority house and we didn't have a full kitchen.  We did have a microwave and that's all you need to make these babies.

Here's What You Need
One Package of Chocolate Almond Bark
One Package of Vanilla Almond Bark
One Jar of Salted Dry Roast Peanuts

Here's What You Do
Bust the almond bark into the squares and put them in a microwave safe bowl.

Put the bowl in the microwave.  Also put a small cup of water in the microwave beside the bowl of chocolate (DO NOT PUT THE WATER IN THE CHOCOLATE).

Melt the chocolate for 3 minutes.  Take out the bowl and stir.  The chocolate will still be solid and not totally melted.  Put the bowl back in the microwave for a minute and a half.  Stir again.  Continue to put in the microwave in 30 second increments until the chocolate is completely melted.  It will look like chocolate soup.

Pour in the jar of peanuts and stir.

Drop spoonfuls on parchment-lined cookie sheets.  Place in a cool place while the chocolate hardens.

The best part, besides this being the easiest of all recipes, is the fact that you can literally whip up an entire batch in less than 30 minutes.  One batch will make approximately 56 pieces of candy.  Tonight I made a batch while dinner was in the oven.

You can divide these up into bags, tie on a ribbon and they are set for giving to teachers, neighbors, your mail person ~ anyone really on your list.  This is also a recipe that's great to do if you gather with friends to make cookies because your recipe won't require you using the oven.

Thanks Becky for sharing this recipe!  I have a feeling it's one that will be passed down for generations.

Handmade Tuesday's with Kristen