All posts by Valerie Citrano

Jesus, Family, Travel, Food. I am a professional photographer and baker who has been published in several magazines and even a cookbook published by Southern Living who featured my pies. I bake for our restaurant, The Coffee Shop Cafe in McGregor, Texas. If you like food and traveling, be sure to keep an eye on my blog and social media pages. I'll be sharing our adventures and recipes along the way! Be sure to comment or ask questions. Our guests mean a lot to us! Thanks for stopping by! For possible collaboration, please email me at ValerieDutyCitrano@gmail.com

Facebook group for RC Brilliance of the Seas TA Cruise Sept 2, 2020

If you would like to join us on our private Facebook page for Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas Transatlantic including Greenland sailing Sept 2, 2020 out of Amsterdam.

A lot of us feel navigating Facebook is so much easier than other cruising sites, so we decided to start a private group there. It’s a friendly alternative to the Cruise Critic page.

All are welcome to our friendly little group where we share information about ports, tours and so much more. Members are also volunteering to organize fun events like a Slot Pull! Events will be on the EVENTS tab at the top of the page!

Click here:

Join our Facebook group here!

Happy Cruising!

Books that just might spark the love of travel in kids

I love to travel! I love to read!

Several years ago I began sending my grandchildren books that told them about some of the places I have traveled with the hope of inspiring them to travel too. Hopefully, along the way, teach them a little geography, history and about saving our planet with a focus on the amazing wildlife both on land in our oceans!

I love going into local bookstores in different countries! I go over and over the shelves filled with children’s books and purchase those not available on Amazon and bring them home. There’s nothing like a bookstore and usually there are only locals that I adore interacting with. We all have a common love of books!

Darling books about those pesky midge in the northern glens of Scotland, a book about a princess in London and one about traveling to Ireland in Belfast. Even storybooks written about our ancestors purchased in the gift shop at the museum at the place where the battle of Bannockburn took place outside of Stirling, Scotland. All beautiful, special treats for the grands that are always on my mind and in my heart.

Lately, I’ve begun finding books related to the places I am traveling on Amazon and send them directly using my prime account. That way they can read about where I am and travel along with me. I search before leaving home and put them in my Amazon cart and ‘save them for later.’ A couple of days before I reach my destination, I order them with a gift note and have the books sent to their house.

The kids love going to the mailbox to look for books, postcards (that will be a separate post) and plush animals along with other fun things.

I’m sharing a few of the books I’ve sent them over the years. There are also links so that you too can send books during your travels to your children and grands. All these books would be great in a classroom too. The descriptions of the books are mostly from their Amazon listings.

Be sure to let me know what you think, or if you have other recommendations for travel children’s literature!

Let’s See Ireland

by Sarah Bowie

I saw this book in a bookstore in Belfast. It talked about many of the places we were visiting in the both the north and south of Ireland including Cork, the Cliffs of Moher and the Titanic Museum. It was perfect! I found it on Amazon right there on the spot and had it sent to them.

Let’s See Ireland! https://www.amazon.com/dp/184717731X/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_L91uDb0V7KP40

Follow Molly’s journey in this gorgeous picture book that is sure to delight adults and children alike! Molly, her parents, and her cat Mipsy tour Ireland and see all the main sights, like Dublin Zoo, Cork City, the Cliffs of Moher, Titanic Belfast, and many more.

Ages 4-8

Let’s Visit Dublin!: Adventures of Bella & Harry

By Lisa Manzione

Another book about Ireland, its history, places and culture. Found this series of books through the eyes of two chihuahuas. They have books from several different places that I’ll be ordering more of as we travel.

Let’s Visit Dublin!: Adventures of Bella & Harry https://www.amazon.com/dp/1937616517/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_8l6uDbP0ETN51

Join sibling Chihuahuas Bella and Harry as they travel to Dublin with their family to visit the Ha’Penny Bridge and Trinity College Library.  Take side trips to Giant’s Causeway, Blarney Castle and the Cliffs of Moher.  Learn about local cuisine (Irish stew and Irish soda bread) and basic local phrases. 

The Adventures of Bella & Harry is a picture book series that chronicles the escapades of a pup named Bella, her little brother Harry and their family, who travel the world exploring the sights and sounds of new, exciting cities.  The “Bella & Harry” series is intended to be an informative, interactive and exciting way to introduce children to travel, different countries, customs, history and landmarks with the educational value of this book cleverly disguised amidst dozens of illustrated pages which are sure to win the hearts of young readers.

Traveling the world with these two cute and cuddly Chihuahuas will allow the young reader to gain an appreciation of the world and its cultural diversity.

Ages 5-10

Hudson and the Puppy: Lost in Paris (A Paris-Chien Adventure)

By Jackie Clark Mancuso

I fell in love with these sweet books that follow a puppy on adventures in Paris and Provence. The puppy shares his name with my grandson that makes these stories even more special for us! There are three in this series so far. Waiting for the next!

Hudson and the Puppy: Lost in Paris (A Paris-Chien Adventure) https://www.amazon.com/dp/0988605856/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_qG6uDbT1WC3TQ

When Hudson encounters a lost puppy, our hero takes him on a whirlwind tour of Paris—on foot, Vespa and bateau mouche—to find his home. What will Hudson do when he realizes the puppy is homeless? This sweet tale of empathy and friendship has lots of colorful Paris scenery, French vocabulary, and includes a petit dictionnaire of French words and phrase.

Age 5-7

Hudson in Provence (A Paris-Chien Adventure)

By Jackie Clark Mancuso

Hudson in Provence (A Paris-Chien Adventure) https://www.amazon.com/dp/0988605848/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_TB6uDbTHNMJTY

Hudson, like all Parisians, is going on vacation for the month of August. And what better place than the enchanting south of France, where he discovers the country dogs have jobs! A believer in the “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” school of travel, Hudson immerses himself in Provençal culture. While this city dog is not particularly adept at herding sheep, truffle hunting and riding in the Tour de France, he eventually finds his true talent: painting portraits of his canine friends!

Age 5-7

The Eye of the Whale (Tilbury House Nature Book)

by Jennifer O’Connell

My adventure in a rib boat in northern Iceland was epic with a humpback deciding to rock the little boat and diving right under it!! One of my favorite adventures! I sent the grands several books on whales from there. I’m hoping to take them to Maui one winter and join the Pacific Whale Foundation to have some of their own whale tales!

The Eye of the Whale (Tilbury House Nature Book) https://www.amazon.com/dp/0884483355/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_N81uDbYPV0S2C

On a cool December morning near San Francisco, a distress call was radioed to shore by a local fisherman. He had discovered a humpback whale tangled in hundreds of yards of crab-trap lines, struggling to stay at the surface to breathe. A team of volunteers answered the call, and four divers risked their lives to rescue the enormous animal.

What followed was a rare and remarkable demonstration of animal behavior. This celebrated story, beautifully depicted in Jennifer O’Connell’s mesmerizing paintings, will make you wonder about animal emotions and the unique connections we can have with animals―even whales.

Ages 5-8

Journey of a Humpback Whale (Dorling Kindersley Readers, Level 2: Beginning to Read Alone)

by Caryn Jenner

Journey of a Humpback Whale (Dorling Kindersley Readers, Level 2: Beginning to Read Alone) https://www.amazon.com/dp/078948515X/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_C51uDbDJXH5H0

The story of a whale and his friend heading north. Although the whales are named and fictional characters, there are many factual notes about the humpback whale.

Ages 6-8

Hello, Little Egg!: An Oona and Baba Adventure (Puffin Rock)

These Puffin Rock books were perfect to send while I was in eastern Iceland photographing Puffins in their natural habitat. Sent plush puffins that they could hold and they made sounds. They loved it all!

Hello, Little Egg!: An Oona and Baba Adventure (Puffin Rock) https://www.amazon.com/dp/0515159166/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_Q61uDbQG3BPB6

Welcome to Puffin Rock—home to two young puffins, Oona and Baba. Join them on their adventures from the Netflix series, Puffin Rock.

Oona, Baba, and Mossy are out playing when they discover a mysterious egg. It’s a race against time as they try to find the parents before it hatches.

Let’s Go Fishing! (Puffin Rock)

Let’s Go Fishing! (Puffin Rock) https://www.amazon.com/dp/1524784214/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_T71uDbSK4YZEJ

It’s a windy day on Puffin Rock and Mama has hurt her wing. Papa asks Oona for her help fishing and Oona can hardly contain her excitement. Fishing with Papa will be such an adventure!

But fishing on a windy day can be tricky. Will Oona be able to manage it?

A beautifully illustrated story based on the award-winning and critically acclaimed animation.

Ages 3-5

The Adventures of Camellia N.: The Arctic

By Debra Wideroe

I ordered this book while I was sailing on a Hurtigruten ship in the fords of the Arctic waters in northern Norway!

The Adventures of Camellia N.: The Arctic (1) https://www.amazon.com/dp/0997085118/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_2H1uDbNZ6R8EQ

In The Adventures of Camellia N.- The Arctic, take a journey with pint-size explorer, Camellia N. as she sails off on her first exciting adventure to the northernmost part of the earth…the Arctic. Explore this enchanted region and learn what makes the Arctic one of the most magical locations on our planet. 

Ages 4-8

Fjords, Vikings and Reindeer (Spin the Globe: The Incredible Adventures of Frederick von Wigglebottom)

by Edward Moldenhauer

I sent this book from Norway. It was a great find so that they can learn about our Viking ancestry and the land they came from. Can’t wait to visit some of the other countries in this series so I can send more of these books!

Fjords, Vikings and Reindeer (Spin the Globe: The Incredible Adventures of Frederick von Wigglebottom) https://www.amazon.com/dp/1490734406/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_3L1uDbM1SMVBJ

Second title in the Spin the Globe: The Incredible Adventures of Frederick von Wigglebottom travel adventure book series. The series is fun and educational, based on bedtime stories once told to my daughter and son. Each night, they would ask Daddy to tell them a story. After  every variation of animal, astronaut, knights, and princess stories I could come up with, one evening I noticed the globe that sat atop a dresser. I asked them to help me pick the story by spinning the globe. Tonight the globe stopped on the city of Trondheim on the coast of Norway. Frederick meets Nikolina, a girl of Viking heritage, and Erik, a Sámi boy who teaches him about this area of Scandinavia in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

More books in this series:

Already Available

Book 1: Dreamtime in Alice Springs – Australia

Book 2: Fjords, Vikings and Reindeer – Norway

Book 3: Alpacas in the Andes – Peru

Book 4: Turtles of the Reef – Belize

Book 5: Where the Earth Meets the Sky – Nepal

Book 6: Mysteries of Marrakech – Morocco

Under Development

Book 7: Edelweiss and Gemütlichkeit – Germany

Book 8: Sunset on the Serengeti – Kenya

Book 9: Castle in the Emerald Glen – Ireland

Book 10: Morning Mist on the Sea – South Korea

Elon Musk: This Book Is about Rockets

By Evan Loomis

I sent this book from our little town of McGregor, Texas where we have our restaurant, The Coffee Shop Cafe and Elon Musk has his SpaceX rocket testing site. I found the book right after Elon and his family came in for pie one Sunday afternoon. This book would equally be good sent from Florida where they launch their rockets.

Elon Musk: This Book Is about Rockets https://www.amazon.com/dp/1684013631/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_eV1uDb15KWT7G

Rockets are awesome! Elon Musk thinks so too. Elon Musk has helped to revolutionize banking, transportation, energy, and of course space travel. But how did he get to where he is? And what fuels him to reach for the next big thing? This book is about rockets, but maybe it’s about something bigger, too.

Dragons Love Tacos

by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri

Fun book that reminded me of our trip with the grands to Mexico. And, Hadley loves tacos!

Dragons Love Tacos https://www.amazon.com/dp/0803736800/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_nW1uDb4ZSQQF0

Dragons love tacos. They love chicken tacos, beef tacos, great big tacos, and teeny tiny tacos. So if you want to lure a bunch of dragons to your party, you should definitely serve tacos. Buckets and buckets of tacos. Unfortunately, where there are tacos, there is also salsa. And if a dragon accidentally eats spicy salsa . . . oh, boy. You’re in red-hot trouble.

Ages 3-7

Off We Go to Mexico

by Laurie Krebs and Christopher Corr

My husband and I leave for Mexico again in a couple of weeks. This book is in my Amazon cart to send when we arrive at the beach on Isla Mujeres. Shhhh.. don’t tell!

Off We Go to Mexico https://www.amazon.com/dp/1846861594/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_1u3uDbAGT1CKS

Swim in turquoise seas, admire grey whales and monarch butterflies, trek to native villages and sing and dance to the music of Mariachi bands. Along the way, you can learn Spanish words and phrases and discover Mexican culture. Enjoy your journey.

Ages 5-8

One Tiny Turtle: Read and Wonder

by Nicola Davies

This was one of the first books related to our travels I purchased. We were going to Cancun with the grands and I brought along several books on turtles and hatchlings so that they would understand if we ran across any baby turtles. And we did!! What a glorious thing to share with them!

One Tiny Turtle: Read and Wonder https://www.amazon.com/dp/0763623113/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_bk2uDbTGZWAPY

Far, far out at sea lives one of the world’s most mysterious creatures, the loggerhead turtle. For thirty years she swims the oceans, wandering thousands of miles as she searches for food. Then, one summer night, she lands on a beach to lay her eggs — the very same beach where she herself was born. Nicola Davies’s lyrical text offers fascinating information about the journey of the tiny, endangered loggerhead, while charming paintings by Jane Chapman vividly illustrate one turtle’s odyssey.

Ages 4-8

Poky, the Turtle Patrol (Endangered Animals)

By Diana Kanan

This one is in my cart to send from Mexico on our next trip. Beautiful illustrations and a reminder of the last time we were all there together.

Poky, the Turtle Patrol (Endangered Animals) https://www.amazon.com/dp/0692159096/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_Ta2uDb6R75J51

Poky, a baby sea turtle, awakes to find he missed the great sea turtle race! He meets several beach friends along the way who offer conflicting advice on how to make it to the finish line. Confused and alone, Poky has decisions to make, but soon realizes he was not the last one when more sea turtles pop up from the hatch. The great race is on…or is it? Whimsical rhyme and original watercolor illustrations make Poky, the Turtle Patrol a must read, not only for young readers, but for any lover of our endangered sea turtle. Portions of the proceeds from book sales are donated to Volusia/Flagler Turtle Patrol.

If You Were a Penguin

by Wendell and Florence Minor

I sent the grands penguin books and brought back plush penguins from the Falkland Islands where I photographed penguins on a beautiful white sand beach. Just me and a few hundred penguins. Then for their Valentine’s Day gift, adopted penguins for them from the Ft. Worth Zoo!! Hadley’s favorite is the Rockhopper!

If You Were a Penguin https://www.amazon.com/dp/0061130974/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_Rg3uDbX4D2THD

In this simple, rhyming picture book, the youngest readers will learn about penguins. This is the perfect read-aloud for teachers and parents to share with young children as they imagine what life as a penguin is like!

The short text by Florence Minor pairs perfectly with the gorgeous, detailed illustrations by acclaimed illustrator Wendell Minor. Fun facts about penguins are featured at the back of the book.

Age 4-8

The Lives of Penguins

by Sharon F. Johnson Ph.D.,

Another book about penguins and the Falkland Islands.

The Lives of Penguins https://www.amazon.com/dp/0692982108/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_Kl3uDbEC1X0MH

Using information-filled rhymes illustrated with incredible photos, the life stories of three Falkland penguins are told in unforgettable detail. This nonfiction book is sure to add to any young reader’s knowledge and understanding of this extraordinary seabird. And, adults can enjoy it too!.

Save the Ocean

by Bethany Stahl

In my cart to send while we are on a cruise in the southern Caribbean this December. Looks amazing! Hoping it leads to oven conservation on their part for years to come.

Save the Ocean https://www.amazon.com/dp/1732395128/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_Cf2uDb2FWJG6N

#1 Best-Selling journey with a mermaid & sea turtle to discover the importance of recycling!

Brought to you from the author who received a Certificate of Recognition from Dr. Jane Goodall!

From exciting and adventurous to educational and captivating, Bethany Stahl’s immersive stories express heartfelt messages while engaging parents and children.

With beautiful and charming illustrations, as well as a lovable sea turtle named Agwe, this is a book adults will love reading over and over again with their kids. Save the Ocean has a heartwarming lesson of recycling and conservation that will stay with the reader for a lifetime.

Book Extras!

Discover hidden elements in a Search and Find game!

Color a page of bonus sketches from renowned illustrator Bethany Stahl!

Learn astonishing ocean facts!

Read an exclusive page the real-life adventures of the author and her efforts to Save the Ocean!

Brave Scots: Robert the Bruce

By Gary Smailes

I found this book and a couple others about our ancestor, Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland in the gift shop at the Bannockburn battlefield Museum outside Stirling, Scotland. It’s a great way to introduce Scottish history to kids. I hope my grands keep these books and cherish them enough to share them with their children.

Brave Scots: Robert the Bruce https://www.amazon.com/dp/0955156467/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_fBevDbA9J2WS9

Robert the Bruce was raised in the English court and was, in essence, a knight. He picked up the mantle to rid Scotland of English rule and this colourful book portrays his high and low points in his quest, including the battle of Bannockburn.

A Visit to Working Sheepdogs

By Glynis Ross

Self Published by Glynis Ross who’s husband is an accomplished sheep herder on Leault Farm in Scotland. This is a charming book that I purchased from them during a sheep herding demonstration. If you get the chance to go, it is a wonderful experience.

A Visit to Working Sheepdogs https://www.amazon.com/dp/0545368235/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_ltfvDb6X9W5T9

A Madeline Treasury: The Original Stories

by Ludwig Bemelmans

What little girl doesn’t love Madeline and her adventures in Paris? A classic!

A Madeline Treasury: The Original Stories by Ludwig Bemelmans https://www.amazon.com/dp/0451470516/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_nzfvDbV4JJC7Q

“ In an old house in Paris

that was covered with vines

lived twelve little girls

in two straight lines

the smallest one was Madeline. ”

 

A complete collection of all the adventures of Madeline, a fearless little girl full of mischief and vitality. Madeline, first published in 1939, and its five sequels have charmed generations of readers, and have become true classics.

Celebrate one of the world’s most popular and beloved fictional characters with this beautiful, deluxe collection, bringing together all six of the Madeline books in one volume. In each of these books, Bemelmans’ humorous verse, his immortal characters—Miss Clavel, Pepito, the magician, the others—and his wonderful, whimsical drawings of Paris combine to create a memorable reading experience for people of all ages.

 

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anna Quindlen has written an introduction to the collection, which also includes “The Isle of God,” an essay by Bemelmans on how he invented Madeline, and never-before-published working sketches of Madeline, as well as photos of the Bemelmans family.

Age 5-8 years, but I still enjoy these stories in my adulthood.

Hattie and Hudson

By Chris Van Dusen

The book title got me on this one. With characters with my grands names, I knew I had to purchase this one. It’s a great story about adventure and inclusion.

Hattie and Hudson https://www.amazon.com/dp/0763665452/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_OjgvDbVS46EWK

A little girl and her colossal friend teach a monster-size lesson about prejudging others in a charming offering from Chris Van Dusen.

Hattie McFadden is a born explorer. Every morning she grabs her life jacket and paddles out in her canoe to discover something new on the lake, singing a little song on her way. When her singing draws up from the depths a huge mysterious beast, everyone in town is terrified — except Hattie, who looks into the creature’s friendly, curious eyes and knows that this is no monster. So Hattie sneaks out at night to see the giant — whom she names Hudson — and the two become friends. But how can she make the frightened, hostile townspeople see that Hudson isn’t scary or dangerous at all? Chris Van Dusen brings his colorful, perspective-bending artwork to this satisfying new story about acceptance, friendship, and sticking up for those who are different.

Ages 4-10

A few other things to send to spark their interest:

Vintoys Soft Plush Sea Turtle Stuffed Animals Plush 10″

Vintoys Soft Plush Sea Turtle Stuffed Animals Plush 10″ https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01J7YEY38/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_xpgvDbPT8K8DC

Wild Republic Audubon Birds Atlantic Puffin Plush with Authentic Bird Sound, Stuffed Animal, Bird Toys for Kids and Birders

I loved that these puffins have authentic bird sounds! I sent these from Iceland with the puffin books. The kids loved them!

Wild Republic Audubon Birds Atlantic Puffin Plush with Authentic Bird Sound, Stuffed Animal, Bird Toys for Kids and Birders https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C2KDJJL/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_brgvDbYQ09DTC

Hugg-A-Planet Classic Political Earth

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L4P8JIU/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_HAgvDbBQXT3F8

Brosan SpaceX Earth Plush Toy Crew Dragon W/ Falcon Heavy Rocket Quote ” Made on Earth by Humans”

The little buddy Elon Musk sent into space on his SpaceX rocket!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07S647Y37/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_9BgvDbQPJD3DG

Melissa & Doug World Map Jumbo Jigsaw Floor Puzzle (Wipe-Clean Surface, Teaches Geography & Shapes, 33 Pieces, 24″ L x 36″ W)

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0007ODGTQ/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_NxgvDbRYNHJ2F

Discovery Kids 2-in-1 World Globe LED Lamp w/ Day & Night Modes, STEM Geography Map Educational Toy for Children, Solar System, Light Up Cities and Countries, Rotating w/ Display Stand

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BY25H27/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_EzgvDb6R03RGY

Remember…. I’d love to hear your suggestions for additional children’s books and toys! Comment below!

Cooking with Hadley and Nana

Cooking with Hadley & Nana, Season 1, Episode 1: Triple Chocolate CakeClick here for Season 1, Episode 1 Triple Chocolate Cake

Cooking with your kids and grandchildren is something they will never forget. I certainly remember cooking simple dishes with my Meme and more elaborate baking from an early age with my Grandmother Duty. They both had different ways of cooking and teaching, but it was all memories that I cherish.

My husband and I recently visited our son and his family in Dallas and I asked Jin if it was of if I could cook with our five year old granddaughter, Hadley. She happily said yes and even helped us film our own pretend cooking show!

We had a lot of fun, but y’all, this is a seriously good and easy cake! You’re gonna love it!! And you’re gonna love my very smart, sassy granddaughter! She makes me smile so big and laugh so much when I’m around her that my ribs sometimes hurt! You never know what she will do or say! She is pure joy!

We hope you enjoy our show and the cake!

By the way… there was no script, no rehearsals, no prompting of any sort. Mess ups and all it’s real!

Triple Chocolate Cake

1 box Devils food cake mix

4 eggs

1 cup sour cream (8oz pkg)

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 box instant chocolate pudding

Mix everything together then add:

1 package chocolate chips

Bake at 350 in a well greased bundt pan 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool 20 minutes and turn out of pan.

Madoma Health and Wellness in the Dallas areaY’all check out Hadley’s Daddy’s wellness business in the north Dallas area!

Skyroam keeping us connected

Skyroam at The Treasury at Petra

Skyroam Wi-Fi Solis hotspot is the best option for keeping us connected while traveling! It’s easy to use in over one hundred countries and they are being added to all the time!

Sure, we use it in Europe, but we were so excited to use our Solis in Israel, Jordan and Egypt the past few months!!

Solis at the wailing wall in Jerusalem

Whether we were at the wailing wall, Petra or the pyramids in Giza, I was able to stay connected with our friends and loved ones back home.

Driving through the Jordan desert

We used it for our phones navigation through the desert in Jordan! What a lifesaver!

Sailing on the Nile River in Egypt

My Solis worked on my river cruise while sailing on the Nile! Saving me lots of time and money by not having purchase timed cards for Wi-Fi from the ship! *

I can’t recommend Skyroam Solis any more and am happy to become an affiliate for their company. Here is a link to purchase a Solis of your own and enjoy a 10% discount:

Skyroam discount

10% off Coupon code: PIELADYLIFE

You have the option of choosing individual day passes or subscribing to a monthly plan if you travel a lot! Either way, Skyroam will keep you connected too!

*Please note: While my Skyroam Solis worked well on my Nile River cruise in Egypt, it will not work on ocean cruises except while in most ports. Skyroam relies on telephone service and works where that service is available.

Away Luggage Referral Program

Hey y’all! Are you like me and constantly search for the perfect carry on bag? Well, I think I might have found just the bag!

Update! I’ve been on two trips with my Away luggage and LOVE it!! It’s so easy to roll that I can glide along through the airport with just one hand! It’s so smooth! I highly recommend Away Luggage!! Be sure to use the link below for $20 off your own!

My Away luggage with Neuschwanstein Castle on the mountain

My Away luggage with Neuschwanstein Castle in the background

Click here for $20 off Away

Check out Away, a new travel company offering beautifully designed luggage that’ll make our travels easier. The Carry-On even has a charger in case you can’t find a plug in the airport. We’ve all had that problem, haven’t we? I’m most impressed with their lifetime guarantee!

Away is a company started by two women who had an idea about what it would take to make a great suitcase. I’ll be rolling their international sized Carry-On through Germany and Austria next month, so check out where I’m going with my new wheels on my Instagram feed!

Be sure to use this link to get $20 off your first suitcase!

Check out Away Luggage here!

I love my Away luggage! I just spent the last couple of months in Israel, Jordan, Egypt and the Netherlands and couldn’t be happier!!! Planning to expand my collection!

New Gelato flavor you must try!!

My sister in law and I just returned from Venice, Italy where we spent a few days before boarding a cruise on the Aegean Sea with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

We had a wonderful time and since we had both been in Venice several times, I decided to explore some places I've not been before.

I've tried making it to Morano and Burano on more than one trip, but it just never worked out the way I wanted. This time it was on my top list of priorities. I booked a tour ahead of our arrival on Viator.

One of the highlights of our time on Burano was our guide's recommendation of a jam packed gelato and shop that is filled with Italian food products and souvenirs.

Oh my goodness! The gelato is amazing!!

I spotted a flavor that I have never seen! Bellini flavored gelato! I had to try it, after all Bellinis are Venice, aren't they?! My first taste of a real drink made with sparkling wine and white fleshed peaches was at Harry's Bar in Venice.

The next time you are in Burano, I highly recommend going to Gelato Artigianale! It's the only place I've ever seen Bellini gelato!

The same little shop also carries speciality pastas, limoncello and other Italian products that would make perfect souvenirs!

Practical advice for visiting Iceland

Reykjavik from the bell tower of Hallgrimskirkja Church with the statue of Leif Eiriksson below
Reykjavik from the bell tower of Hallgrimskirkja Church with the statue of Leif Eiriksson below

My daughter, Ashley and I visited Iceland at the end of February this year. We absolutely loved the beauty of this diverse country and the friendliness of the people. It was a wonderful couple of weeks spending quality time together, experiencing new adventures and meeting some amazing new friends.

I’ve been wanting to share some of our experiences here as well as some practical advice. There are two places that we have been recently that everyone seem to us ask about. Cuba and Iceland.

I’ve been so busy with work and other travels that I’ve kept putting it off writing these posts. Being asked three times in a 24 hour period. Then hearing that Rick Steves was planning on publishing a guide book on Iceland this fall and his star researcher, Cameron Hewitt need travelers advice, pushed me to finally get these posts done! After all, the Rick Steves guide books have been extremely helpful all these years in planning trips to Europe. It is my chance to finally give back.

First things first
The flights to Iceland are cheap, but the costs while you are there are not. Don’t let that discourage you from going though. Iceland is an amazing country.

I wanted to experience the Northern Lights, so I chose to go during the winter months. I booked our trip for the end of February and beginning of March thinking that it wouldn’t be as cold as say December or January. The joke was on me though. We arrived in a frigid snow storm that ended up being the largest snowfall in the last 60 years in Reykjavik! Lesson learned. You can’t predict the weather! Oh… And take plenty of layers of warm clothing and snow boots. Layering is the key no matter what time of year you decide to go.

We took the bus into Reykjavik to our hotel. I booked online. The bus is the cheapest option for traveling to/from the airport, the Blue Lagoon and the airport. The only difficult part is the bus always goes to the terminal in Reykjavik before you grab a van to/from your hotel. I booked a private transfer back to the airport through our hotel because I was afraid that we may end up being late and I didn’t want to risk missing the hourly bus to the airport. The extra cost was worth peace of mind to me.

Our visit to The Blue Lagoon and our GoEcco 3 Day Ice Caving & Northern Lights tour both deserve posts of their own. Both well worth doing.

The Hotel that I highly recommend:



We actually stayed in two hotels in Reykjavik. On our first three nights we stayed at the Raddison Blu Saga. It was a large hotel outside the city center.

Our home away from home at Kvosin Downtown Hotel
Our home away from home at Kvosin Downtown Hotel

On our return from our three day GoEcco ice caving tour, we stayed at the nicest ‪boutique hotel in a great central downtown location near restaurants, tourist sites and shopping. They have lovely, modern decorated rooms with a small kitchen and a nice espresso machine. Reasonably priced. Free wifi. I highly recommend them. ‬

Kvosin Downtown Hotel

Kirkjutorg 4

Reykjavik

IS-101. IS

‪+3545714460‬

Kvosin Hotel

‪Ways to save money on eating in Iceland:

‪Icelandic water from the tap is some of the best in the world. Bring along a stainless steel bottle and fill it up from the tap at your hotel. Icelanders think it’s silly when tourists buy bottled water. Ask for tap water in restaurants too. ‬

‪Be aware that an inexpensive meal in Iceland means spending $22-35 US. Iceland is definitely expensive, but there are a few ways that you can save a little money and not go hungry.‬
‪Take snack foods with you. We packed peanut butter and crackers, protein and breakfast bars, nuts and other filling goodies to eat rather than paying for a full three meals a day. This enabled us to spend more time taking in the sights and more cash for souvenir shopping.‬

‪Look for a hotel or apartment with a kitchen or a microwave and coffee maker. We picked up packaged frozen dinners and ‘cup of soup’ from a grocery store for a couple of meals. Bonus is a good option. Their grocery stores are still more expensive than what we are accustomed to in the USA, but still way cheaper than restaurants. I brought along instant coffee, tea bags and creamer too. ‬

‪The Icelandic hot dogs are tasty and a good value. They are available at about every gas station around Iceland. You will find them in beef or lamb. Try the lamb. Very good.‬

‪Restaurant recommendations:‬

‪We tried several restaurants that were recommended by locals which were moderately priced. These were our favorites.‬
Reykjavik:

Dinner at Saeta Svinid Gastropub
Dinner at Saeta Svinid Gastropub


 

Saeta Svinid Gastropub

Hafnarstræti 1-3 / 101 Reykjavík

Sími: 555 2900

http://saetasvinid.is/en

‪Open 11:30-23:30‬
‪Their menu is filled with Icelandic specialities like puffin, minke whale, and horse. Though we did not venture to try any of the fore mentioned dishes, we did try the lamb, the salmon and their really good burger. ‬

Inside Uno Restaurant
Inside Uno Restaurant


Uno

‪Hafnarstraeti 3‬

‪Reykjavik 101, Iceland‬

Uno
‪We enjoyed this cozy restaurant on one of our first evenings in Reykjavik. Nicely appointed interior with many choices of reasonably priced food. They also have an outside seating area to enjoy your meal on a sunny day. ‬

Nice treats to warm up with at ‪Salka Valka - Fish & More
Nice treats to warm up with at ‪Salka Valka – Fish & More

‪Salka Valka – Fish & More

‪Skolavordustigur 23,‬

‪Reykjavik 101, Iceland ‬
‪Cozy little fish shop on busy Skolavordustigur street just down from ‬

‪Hallgrimskirkja. Nice place to take a rest and warm up with a little lunch or dessert and coffee. Very friendly staff.‬

Fresh ground coffee at ‪Reykjavik Roasters
Fresh ground coffee at ‪Reykjavik Roasters


Reykjavik Roasters

‪Karastigur 1 (corner of Frakkastigur)‬

‪Reykjavik 101, Iceland ‬

‪Cute little coffee shop with coffee to enjoy there or to take away. They also sell pastries. Grab a fresh roasted cup of coffee and grab a window seat or take a cup with you and walk across the way to Braud & Company for pastry and head to Harpa Concert Hall like we did to enjoy a unique setting for breakfast. (Many thanks to Jonathan and Tomas for that great idea!)‬

Fresh made bread and pastries at colorful ‪Braud & Company
Fresh made bread and pastries at colorful ‪Braud & Company


‪Braud & Company‬

‪16 Frakkastigur‬

‪Reykjavik 101, Iceland ‬

‪Wide selection of made from scratch pastries and breads that you are only able to take away. A great bakery that you can smell from blocks away early every morning. You are able to watch the bakers while standing in line waiting your turn. Highly recommend the croissants and cinnamon rolls. ‬

‪ ‬

Lots of shopping and coffee shops on the street just in front of‪ Hallgrimskirkja Church
Lots of shopping and coffee shops on the street just in front of‪ Hallgrimskirkja Church


Souvenir shopping in Reykjavik:‬
‪Head to Laugavegur and Skolavordustigur streets for a wide selection of shops to pop into. You can find all types of souvenirs to take home. Be sure to compare prices as we found that there can be a very wide difference from one shop to the next on vertically the same items. ‬
‪I fell in love with all the handmade woolen accessories. I purchased socks for everyone on my gift list. They are so warm and cozy!! ‬

A special souvenir to remember Iceland in your home everyday
A special souvenir to remember Iceland in your home everyday

‪My daughter loved all the hides. She ended up purchasing two as souvenirs to decorate her home. She purchased a sheep hide at a darling shop at 22 Skolavordustigur street (one building down from Fish & More Restaurant) just down from Hallgrimskirkja Church on the right side. They had a nice selection at a good price. This shop had a wide assortment of reasonably priced souvenirs of all kinds. Worth a visit.

She also purchased a reindeer hide at The Blue Lagoon gift shop. They had a really nice selection of hides at a good price as well.‬

‪Handknitting Association of Iceland

‪Skolavordustigur 19‬

‪Reykjavik 101, Iceland ‬
‪A cooperative of women who knit many types of clothing and accessories from Icelandic wool. Huge selection of items! Sweaters,hats, socks, mittens, scarves, You can even purchase wool to take home to make your own items. I highly recommend purchasing the socks if you are visiting Iceland in the winter. They will keep your feet warmer than any sock you can purchase in the USA. Believe me, you will need that warmth! The cooperative’s handmade items were my choice for souvenirs for myself and my family.‬

‪Places to visit in Reykjavik:

‪Hallgrimskirkja Church
‪Hallgrimskirkja Church


 

‪Hallgrimskirkja Church

‪Hallgrimstorg 1‬

‪101 Reykjavik, Iceland ‬

Hallgrimskirkja
‪Be sure to head into the gift shop in the hall to the left as you enter the church to purchase the elevator tickets to go up to the top of the church. You will be rewarded with outstanding 360 degree views of Reykjavik, the harbor and the mountains across the way. ‬
‪Enjoy the modern church interior as well.‬

‪Statue of Leif Eiriksson‬

‪Sits at the front entrance to Hallgrimskirkja Church‬

Looking out through the windows of Harpa Concert Hall
Looking out through the windows of Harpa Concert Hall

‪Harpa Concert Hall‬

Austurbakka 2, 101 Reykjavík

Sími: 528 5000

Harpa
‪Beautiful glass and steel building on the waterfront in Reykjavik. You can go inside and explore for free. Nice place for a picking in the seating areas on the upper floors. Great view of the mountains and harbor. ‬

‪Check their website for events. I wish we would have had time to take in a show called “How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes.” Our friends that went said it was really funny and, better yet, our GoEcco guide said it was funny and very true. We will do this for sure on our next trip. ‬

How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes

Fun shoe skating on frozen ‪Lake Thornin
Fun shoe skating on frozen ‪Lake Thornin


‪Lake Thornin

‪Picturesque little lake in the Reykjavik city center that is nice to stroll around and watch the swans, ducks and other water fouls. It iced over during our visit which made it more fun as we skated around in our snow boots. ‬

The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon


The Blue Lagoon

‪Outside of Reykjavik but it’s only a 45 minute bus ride away.
Having been to Iceland, next trip I would do it a little differently. I would take the bus to the Blue Lagoon from the airport instead of heading directly to Reykjavik. I’d stay at the Blue Lagoon’s hotel/resort my first night and enjoy more time there. If you decide to go to the Blue Lagoon, be sure to book everything online long in advance! I’ll write a separate post on just the Blue Lagoon and some of its amenities.

Love at first sight! The Aurora In Iceland!
Love at first sight! The Aurora In Iceland!


Experiencing the Northern Lights:

‪Pick a time of year when the nights are very dark. Usually that means from October through March for the best chance to see the lights. Try not to go during a full moon. This took me a lot of time researching for the best time for my daughter and I to go to Iceland. Seeing the Aurora was my top reason to go, so it was extremely important to me. ‬

‪The longer that you stay in Iceland, the better chance you have seeing the lights. Keep in mind that the weather is extremely unpredictable. We arrived at the end of the winter season to the largest snowfall in Reykjavik from the last 80 years. Totally unexpected. Even though the aurora was active the first three nights we visited, we couldn’t see them because of cloud cover. ‬

‪I had booked a super Jeep excursion with ‬Arctic Adventures for our second evening. Literally, every other company cancelled their northern lights tours due to cloud cover, but Arctic Adventures did not. It was an extremely frigid, disappointing evening. They did take us outside of town, but there was too much cloud cover and no lights. Unfortunately, it was a waist of a lot of money too. Almost $400 for the two of us. I understand other companies are willing to reschedule or refund if things don’t go as planned. I thought I had done my research as to the best company to use. This is a warning to others.

‪The aurora forecast website to watch:

Aurora Forcast

‪Follow this account on Twitter:

‪Aurora Forecast @AuroraIceland for both the Aurora forecast and cloud cover. ‬

‪Photographing the Northern Lights:

‪There are a few things you will need if you are planning on trying to photograph the lights. First, you’ll need a good DSLR camera. I had read a couple of articles about apps for your iPhone that were capable of photographing the Aurora. I downloaded two of the apps that looked promising. The first evening that we saw the lights, I pulled out my iPhone and gave them both a try. Some people may be happy with the results, but it just wasn’t good in my opinion.‬
‪There are plenty of photography websites and books out there that explain how to set your specific DSLR camera. I’ll leave that to the people who do that type of photography all the time. They are the experts and it is quite a detailed process. I would suggest that if you have a couple of free hours in Reykjavik, to head to the small museum by the harbor, Aurora Reykjavik and ask the sweet people there if they wouldn’t mind setting your camera for you. Be sure to take the time to look at all their beautiful displays while you are there. Some wonderful examples of photography of the Aurora and you may begin to understand the Aurora better. Well worth the entrance price. You are also able to book Northern Lights tours on their website. They have several to choose from. ‬

‪Aurora Reykjavik: The Northern Lights Center
‪Aurora Reykjavik: The Northern Lights Center


Aurora Reykjavik: The Northern Lights Center

‪Grandagarður 2, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland‬

Aurora Reykjavik

‪Open 7 days a week 9 AM – 9 PM‬
‪Be sure to bring along extra batteries for your camera and other devices. A battery pack is also good to have. Batteries drain their power quickly in the cold. ‬

Things I’d love to do on our next visit to Iceland:‬




I really want to do this photography tour:‬

‪I’ve been following Icelandic photographer ‬Iurie Belegurschi for several years now on social media. His photographs are what inspired me to go to Iceland. Being a photographer, I wanted to experience the crystal ice cave and Northern Lights myself.

Iceland Winter Photo Tour
‪I still really want to do this tour. Though the tour we took was really wonderful and I highly recommend it to everyone, this tour is geared for photography. I would have had to go alone as my daughter isn’t interested in photography. Maybe one day. Still on my travel wish list. ‬

Staying in a clear bubble dome in the middle of nowhere:‬

‪I think staying in a bubble would be a dreamy experience! That is if I could ever go to sleep with all those stars and the Northern Lights! ‬
Bubble
‪I did look at staying in a bubble before our trip. I just couldn’t figure out how to get there without renting a vehicle. We Texans have no idea how to drive on snow or ice, so that was totally out of the question. ‬