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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!

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……. 

Cool Awards: Best Pies in Texas, Best Breakfast in Waco! 

Wow! I can’t tell y’all how amazed and humbled we are about the awards and accolades we’ve been receiving lately concerning our restaurant! We wanted to be sure to Thank y’all!

Texas Highway Magazine, the official travel magazine of the state of Texas, named my pies third best in the state! What an honor!! I came in behind two cafes with a long tradition of having some of the best pies for longer than I’ve been alive! I’ll take being the newbie in this prestigious group. They also named The Coffee Shop Cafe one of the 40 Best Small Town Cafe’s in Texas! Crazy awesome, huh!?

Then, the restaurant was was given a readers choice award by Waco Today Magazine for having the best breakfast in Waco! Y’all, if you haven’t come out to The Coffee Shop Cafe for breakfast, you are really missing out! We serve breakfast all day and on weekend mornings we have a totally amazing breakfast buffet! All sorts of eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, pancakes, gravy, fruit and lots more. My favorite, migas, are on the buffet too. It’s over at 10:45 AM on Saturday and Sunday, so come early and hungry!

We want to Thank all our friends and customers for voting for us! Without you, we wouldn’t be where we are today! 



We also had a really fun honor when the producers from HGTV’s show, Fixer Upper stopped by and filmed part of our decorations for their Christmas special featuring Chip and Joanna Gaines new bed and breakfast in town, Magnolia House. How fun to see a quick flash of our restaurant on their show! Of course, it went by so fast that if you hadn’t ever been to the restaurant before you would have never even known where it was filmed! Haha! Still super cool for Donald and I and for our regular customers that spotted us! We appreciate all of their business with us too. Lots of wonderful people!

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

All the glory goes to God! 

 

 


Classic Pumpkin Pie & Made From Scratch Crust

There’s just nothing better than Classic Pumpkin Pie

As the temperature drops, fall means pie to me. Pumpkin pie in particular! I’ll admit, it’s one of my weaknesses. It’s a vegetable, after all! Right?

Our forefathers may not have had this classic at the first Thanksgiving, but I don’t know many tables that it does not grace now a days!

This recipe is adapted from the back of every can Libby’s 100% pure pumpkin. It’s the best I’ve ever eaten. There’s no reason to mess with a classic.

By the way, I only use Libby’s. Did you know that most other brands aren’t even real pumpkin? They are actually another type of squash. Check the label to be sure before you buy that store brand to be sure.

I’m sharing the easy pie crust recipe my Grandmother Duty taught me many years ago. I know, I should have added a few more ‘manys,’ but who’s counting anymore? Not me!

Really, it’s easy to make pie crust from scratch. Give it a try!

Pumpkin Pie

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 large eggs

1 can (15 oz) Libby’s 100% pure pumpkin

1 can (12 fl. oz) evaporated milk

1 unbaked deep dish pie crust

Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl mix sugar and spices together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Add the can of pumpkin and sugar/spice mixture to eggs and stir until well blended. Shake can of evaporated vigorously before opening, then add to pumpkin mixture. Stir until well blended and smooth.


Pour custard mixture into pie crust.

Place on baking sheet and then into your preheated oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake an additional 40-50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for at least two hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

My Grandmother’s Pie Crust

One crust for 9 inch pie
1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup shortening

3 tablespoons cold water
Sift flour and salt together. (I just use a wire whisk to blend and fluff the flour. The air mixed into the flour makes a lighter crust.)


Cut in shortening with a pastry blender, until size of small peas. Sprinkle water over mixture, while tossing quickly with fork, until particles stick together. Form into smooth ball.


Foe ease in rolling out pastry, wrap dough in waxed paper and allow to chill in refrigerator. Lightly roll pastry into circle one inch larger than pie pan. Lift loosely into pie pan. Pat out air. Fold edges under and crimp.


Prick entire crust throughly before baking. This prevents bubbles and excess shrinkage. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and fill.

A simple, fun way to dress up a pie is to use a shaped pastry cutter with a plunger that you lightly press into your rolled out crust. They come in lots of designs, but my favorites are leaves. Very versatile.

Just cut the shapes out with the plunger. Place on a non stick baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. When cooled, add them any way you’d like on top of your pumpkin pie. Be creative!

Is this one of  your favorite fall pies too? Do you do something really creative with your pumpkin pie? Share your thoughts below and photos if you have them! I’d love to see yours!

Waco’s Big Red Ice Cream 


A tale of two sodas. 

The old Big Red Distribiter building on LaSalle Ave in Waco, Texas
the sign in front of the old Big Red offices still stands on LaSalle Ave in Waco, Texas

A lot of people know that Dr Pepper was invented right here in Waco, but did you know that Big Red soda was born here too? Big Red was invented in 1937 and has been made in Waco ever since. One Texas city with two bottling companies born here. Pretty cool, I think!! Big Red isn’t sold as widely as Dr Pepper, but it’s fans are just as passionate. I’ve actually had to bring along six-packs to friends who didn’t live in a states that it was sold in. I’ve heard of some Texans stationed overseas in the military who have loved ones ship them a supply on a regular basis. Now that’s love!

The old Big Red Distribiter building on LaSalle Ave in Waco, Texas at www.PieLadyLife.com
The old Big Red Distribiter building on LaSalle Ave in Waco, Texas

Living here in Waco, we grew up with Big Red. We use it in baking and we enjoyed lots of it poured over vanilla ice cream to make floats. During the hot summer months, my Aunt Willie would bring her hand crank ice cream machine over to my grandmother’s house and she would make us all Big Red Ice Cream. Uncle Roy seemed to always be the one sitting on the back steps cranking that machine while he allowed us kids to add the ice and salt as it melted. Uncle Roy would tell us stories of Tom Sawyer and his life as a young boy growing up in what was a foreign state to us. He would let us crank from time to time, but none of us hung in that long. Dang, that was hard work!! Bless his heart! Looking back now, I really appreciate him!

Big Red soda bottled in Waco, Texas
Big Red soda bottled in Waco, Texas

When all that cranking was done, and the lid was finally opened, what came out was MAGICAL!! Creamy, fruity, magic! Better than a float any day! Big Red ice cream!

Yummy, refreshing Big Red ice cream! Recipe on www.PieLadyLife.com
Yummy, refreshing Big Red ice cream

 Waco’s Big Red Ice Cream

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 pint of whipping cream

1 – 10 ounce package of frozen strawberries

1 – 2 liter bottle of Big Red (64 ounces)

You will also need a bag of ice and rock salt for your ice cream freezer.

Mix together the sweetened condensed milk, whipping cream and partially defrosted strawberries in a medium bowl. Once combined, pour into standard size ice cream freezer cylinder. Place cylinder in outer bucket of machine. Fill cylinder with Big Red. Insert paddle, cover cylinder and attach motor. Fill outer bucket with ice, layering along the way with the rock salt, repeating till ice is at the top of inner cylinder. Freeze according to manufacturers directions.

Makes about 3 quarts. This ice cream is yummy right out of the ice cream maker or you can freeze and serve later. Store leftovers in freezer safe container.

Use any soda and fruit combination to make delicious ice cream! at www.PieLadyLife.com
Use any soda and fruit combination to make delicious ice cream!

You can use the basic part of this recipe and change up the soda and frozen fruit to customize it to any flavor combinations you wish. Just use your imagination! There are so many speciality sodas available now that you can just go crazy! My Aunt Willie would sometimes use Orange Crush and frozen pineapple. It was really good too! Here’s a few other variations you might like to try:

Ginger ale with pineapple

Cream soda with cherries

Cherry soda with dark cherries

Ginger ale with peaches

Pomegranate Italian soda and blueberries

Be sure to share what ice cream you’re planning on making!

Have you had Big Red ice cream before? Tell us your story. 

MeeMee’s Texan Goulash 

I have to make a confession. My “foodie” card may be taken away from me for admitting to this….

All my life, I thought that my grandmother made goulash the Eastern European way. After all, my MeeMee’s mother was German. Why would I have ever had thought differently? I was so wrong! I can’t believe at my age I am just coming to this realization!

My German great great grandmother, Nana.
My German great great grandmother, Nana.

How did I come to find the real truth about ‘goulash’? You see, my husband and I are planning a trip to Eastern Europe, taking a cruise down the Danube River through Hungary, Austria and Germany. This means that I’ve been doing a lot of research on places to visit including restaurants. I was so looking forward to experiencing a big bowl of goulash in the motherland of my ancestors but the photos on the cafe’s websites looked nothing like the bowls of pasta and ground meat that my MeeMee sat before us at her dining room table.

More research was necessary.

I’ll admit that I was a bit disappointed. Had my own grandmother lied to me all those years? It was the one dish that she made that I had looked forward to her serving on our visits.

I ran across a recipe on the Viking River Cruises website and decided to compare it to the one that I have known all those years. The European version has chunks of meat and no noodles but the spices were very comparable. My grandmother used chili powder and the European recipe using some of the same type spices including paprika.

I realized that the recipe had been changed to acomidate my family’s living in Texas with a growing family. Money was scarce and ground  beef was more affordable. Pasta stretched the recipe to fill more hungry bellies. The chili powder had that same smokey flavor as paprika but was more available and affordable in Texas.

I’ll have to tell ya… I still like my MeeMee’s version even if it may not be the ‘real’ thing! I’ll bet y’all will too!

My grandmother's Texan Goulash
My grandmother’s Texan Goulash

MeeMee’s Texan Goulash 

2 pounds ground beef

1 bell pepper, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

2 large cans peeled tomatoes (or Rotel tomatoes)

2 small cans tomato sauce

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon sugar

Large bag of elbow macaroni

Sauté ground beef on top of stove in frying pan till done. Add diced bell pepper and onion and sauté until onion is almost translucent. Drain grease from pan.

In a Dutch oven, combine meat and vegetable mixture with tomatoes, tomato sauce and spices.  Cover and simmer on stove about 20 minutes till bubbly. Meanwhile, boil pasta on stove in heavy saucepan till done. Add pasta to meat and tomato mixture. Taste. Add more chili powder at this point if you’d like.

Serve with crusty bread if you’d like.

Enjoy!