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Viva la Cuba!

Viva the people. The cars. The culture. The food. The cigars. The rum.

Have you dreamed about going to Cuba before the island changes forever?

This video is compiled from photos I shot on the incredible trip we took to Cuba this March. Hopefully it will inspire you to experience this unique place that everyone says is stuck in time.

I’m ready to go back!! 

And we are!!! Our next trip will be on Southwest Airlines first flight from Ft Lauderdale to Havana this December!! So looking forward to a whole new experience in Cuba around the holidays!!

Would you like to go to Cuba in 2017? We may try to get a group together to go back. Contact me at val110358@aol.com for more info. Meanwhile, enjoy our last trip… 

Magnolia House exterior transformation 

Ok. I might have been a house stalker. To a certain extent anyway. Our restaurant is in the same town that Chip and Joanna Gaines bought and refurbished the 1800s farmhouse in the middle of downtown McGregor. The bank we use for our business is right across the street. We have to go to that bank at least once a day. Every day. Seven days a week. Except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Magnolia  House B&B in McGregor before renovation copyright Valerie Citrano
That’s how I began noticing the work being done on my dear friend, Mrs. Truelove’s former house. The home had fallen into disrepair after her death. I’d often thought what a shame it was. In its former glory, it was such a beauty.

I don’t think there was anyone other than Chip and Jo that could have taken the house and transformed it as beautifully. It is now nationally known to fans of Fixer Upper as Magnolia House B&B.

Have a look at some of the photos I took with my iPhone as the house progressed.

Magnolia  House B&B in McGregor before renovation copyright Valerie Citrano

The Carriage House besideMagnolia  House B&B in McGregor before renovation copyright Valerie Citrano
the Carriage House beside the Magnolia house before renovation

Magnolia  House B&B in McGregor during renovation copyright Valerie CitranoMagnolia  House B&B in McGregor during renovation copyright Valerie CitranoMagnolia  House B&B in McGregor during renovation copyright Valerie Citrano
Is it really stalking if you tell the owners? No! Surly not! Right?

My husband and I both ended up going to the bank when the 18 wheeler furniture truck happened to be unloading all of the furniture for Magnolia House. We both took a picture.

Joanna's new furniture line being delivered to her Magnolia House B&B in McGregor, TX copyright Valerie Citrano

And then the next day we saw Chip and Jo.

I’m only posting this picture because the look on Chip’s face is just so priceless! Pretty sure it’s the way he looks every time he sees me. I’m really not sure why! Haha!

Chip and Joanna Gaines with Donald and Valerie Citrano www.pieladylife.com

And my husband showed Jo the picture of the truck unloading at the house.

(If I would have known a friend was taking these pictures, I promise I would have turned around!)

Jo told us the furniture was from her new line that would soon be available for purchase. She also told us that the producers of the show wanted to do the reveal at the end of the week. Cool insider information direct from the source. I was good. I didn’t tell anyone.

Chip and Joanna Gaines with Donald and Valerie Citrano www.pieladylife.com
Yes, I told them that we had totally been stalking the house and how wonderful it was that they chose the house in our little town of McGregor to open a B&B. So, when you tell someone that you may be stalking, it’s not really stalking. Right?

And they still took a photo with us! Haha!!


And then my friend Debby, who owns Greenlife Nursery and Landscaping¬†showed up for lunch at¬†The Coffee Shop Cafe¬†and we were off for a whirlwind day …. I got to help her with the Fixer Upper house…….¬†

Visiting Singapore 

Friends we met on the road


One of my very favorite things that I love about traveling is making new friends. We have been blessed to meet some wonderful people whom we stay in touch with.

We met Samuel and Rita on a group tour ‘following the steps of Paul’ through Turkey and Greece a few years ago. We totally clicked on our trip, sharing the gospel and just worshiping Jesus along the way. We stayed in touch after our journey ended.

Rita and Samuel came to Waco for a visit while they were in the United States a couple of years ago. We took them to The Texas Ranger Museum, walked along the Brazos River banks, over the Suspension Bridge and to a Wade Bowen country music concert. We had a lot of fun showing them our city and our restaurant in nearby McGregor.

Well, this year we made a point to go to Singapore to visit them for a few days after our trip to Thailand. We were just too close to them to not drop by and catch up on their lives and I just wanted to hug my friend, Rita’s neck!

They showed us a little of Singapore 

We began with a proper Singapore tea. 

Coconut jam and butter on toast! Something very new to us and very tasty! Try it at Toast Box. According to their website, they have several locations.

We walked around the downtown area that is filled with street art! Even the buildings were amazing!

After dinner, we headed to their colorful Chinatown 


The next morning, we visited the Singapore Zoo. The highlight for me was seeing both the panda and red panda.

Visit Singapore Zoo for more info on their four very different parks and even a breakfast that I would have loved to have time to do.

The Peranakan Museum

The museum focuses on the rich heritage of the Singapore people.

For more information about their many lovely exhibits, visit their website: Peranakan Museum Singapore

Singapore Botanic Gardens

We spent a beautiful afternoon walking in the botanic gardens full of tropical plants. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There is a very special garden devoted to all types of orchids. A real must see!  For more information: Singapore Botanic Gardens

Samuel and Rita treated us to so much wonderful food! 

We visited restraunts in a mall, outdoor market and in a revolving tower! We tried foods that we have never tried before and everything was so delicious!

 Thank you, our friends, for showing us your beautiful Singapore! We loved it and seeing you again was very special!

Have you ever met people on a trip and promised to stay in touch? Have you? Be sure to share your stories with us! 

Simple Strawberry Cake

This is a very easy cake to make in a hurry that is still very delicious and worthy of a family gathering. The basic recipe has been around forever and used in our household over and over.


It’s one of those basic recipes that is super simple to change out the flavors with different flavors of gelatin and fruit. Try peach, raspberry, apricot, blackberry or cherry! Use orange juice concentrate in place of pur√©ed fruit for a very refreshing cake. All very flavors good!

 

Strawberry buttercream frosting is really yummy on this cake, but this time I decided to use a refreshing Cool Whip strawberry frosting to lighten it up. By the way… The Cool Whip flavored this way is great in a trifle or just spooned into perfect cups with fresh fruit.

Be sure to share how you used these recipes!! We’d love to see your cakes and deserts!

 

Here’s a beginning bakers guide to preparing your cake pans.

Purée frozen strawberries to be added to cake batter.

Slowly pour purée into the batter.

Mix well.

Separate cake batter evenly in two cake pans that have been lightly greased and floured.

This is a dense, moist cake that will need to be checked often for doneness.

Simple Strawberry Cake



1 box of white cake mix

1 box of strawberry gelatin (3 oz instant)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

4 eggs

1 package frozen strawberries in syrup (around 15 oz)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare two cake pans by lightly greasing and flouring them.
Purée strawberries in a blender or food processor. Or, just mash them with a fork. It will still be good!
Combine cake mix and gelatin in a large mixing bowl. Add oil, water, eggs and puréed strawberries. Mix at medium speed of an electric mixer until smooth. Pour evenly into prepared pans. Bake 35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. (Ovens vary, so check early and often) Let pans cool 10 minutes before inverting them on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
For the quick, light frosting... 

Purée fresh strawberries and add to Cool Whip in a medium mixing bowl.

Wisk the strawberries into the Cool Whip until smooth.



Strawberry Cool Whip Frosting



1 (16 oz) container Cool Whip

2/3 pint fresh strawberries (more for decoration if you’d like)

1 teaspoon sugar

Spoon Cool Whip into a medium mixing bowl.

In a blender (or magic bullet) purée the 2/3 pint fresh strawberries and sugar until smooth. Pour into cool whip and whip with a white wisk  until completely blended. Frost cake with this mixture when completely cool. Decorate with fresh strawberries, if desired. Store cake in the refrigerator.