Tag Archives: Texas

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!

 

‘Fixer-Upper’ in Waco

Seriously, who has not heard of Chip and Joanna Gaines and their show, Fixer-Upper on HGTV? It’s amazing how the couples new home improvement and decorating show has taken off and become so popular here in the US. Honestly, as a person who lives here in Waco, it is quite amazing and something we locals can be very proud of. They are a loving, Christian couple involved with their family who are exactly what they portray on TV as they are in real life.

How exciting to hear that a local couple was chosen to do a pilot for the Home and Garden Television network. We first learned about in an article Joanna wrote in a local magazine, Wacoan, in which she has been a contributor for several years. The pilot was a hit and their search for homes to feature on the show began.

Their show, Fixer-Upper seemed to be a hit from the time the first show aired. It continues to grow in popularity as it has now entered in its second season.

I’m not sure that anyone in Waco could ever have imagined what their show would mean to our city. Besides the renovations of some run down houses, The Gaines have shed a very positive light on Waco on national TV. Something that is good for everyone here. Fans from across the country want to move to Waco so that they too may be able to have a home renovated and designed by the talented couple.

I personally did not realize the ‘Fixer-Upper” effect on Waco until Joanna announced a Fall Workshop on her Instagram account. It sounded like it would be a fun evening in Waco, so I bought a ticket. Good thing I didn’t lolly gag around because about 700 tickets were sold in just a few days! Friends of mine couldn’t get tickets. Even my friend Debby that owns a landscape company that does some of the work for the show couldn’t get a ticket to be able to go with me! Let me tell ya, that is amazing for our community. We are procrastinators when it comes to deciding to buy tickets for events here.

Chip greeting people in line at their Fall Workshop in Waco, Texas
Chip greeting people in line at their Fall Workshop in Waco, Texas
When time came for Joanna’s workshop on that Thursday evening last fall, I was shocked to see the long line that wrapped around the Phoenix Ballroom building. Everyone was excited and chatting in line. My goodness, there were people in line from all over the United States! Other than people working the event, I only recognized one other person from Waco. I’m sure there were more but by-golly, everyone I talked to was from somewhere from out of town. People drove and FLEW into Waco on purpose for this event! A lady came all the way from Seattle, Washington! Seattle! I’ll tell ya, thats when I knew for sure we had some new celebrities in Waco, Texas!

The workshop was a lot of fun. Joanna talked about how Magnolia came to be. I remember when she was starting out by selling children’s clothing downtown at a popular shop called Spice. She moved into a space across from mine in the store. She had some of the cutest merchandise. She told us a cute story about how she would take decor items to try to sell in her dad’s tire store and how one day she went in and the item was finally gone. She was so happy to finally sell something but then later found out that her dad had actually purchased the piece. What a great daddy!

She talked about meeting Chip, their family, Magnolia’s growth, their television show and their faith. She spoke about God whispering to her and said, “When God calls you to do something, he will give you the strength and capacity to do those things.” Very inspiring!

Joanna Gaines speaking at their fall workshop in Waco, Texas
Joanna Gaines speaking at their fall workshop in Waco, Texas
Then Chip took the stage with a chain saw! Yep, I said chain saw! He preceded to use it to cut a tree limb to use in decor. He was as hilarious as can be! Reminded me of Tim the tool man for a hot second! Then it was our time to follow along with Joanna working on a craft project. Nice evening for sure.

Chip Gaines entertaining the crowd at their workshop.
Chip Gaines entertaining the crowd at their workshop.
We love them and their show!

For those of us that live in Waco, there’s a different kind of excitement in watching their show. We all love seeing the landmarks and businesses along with some of our friends and their Fixer Upper experiences.
These days you’ll hear us saying things like:
“That’s our customers!”
“Look! That’s Devan and Hannah!” Or Marla, or etc, etc!
“Where is that neighborhood?”
“I know that house!”
“Isn’t that by the lake?”
And now, “We can’t wait to see what they are doing to Mrs. Truelove’s house on TV!”
Pretty darn special. Everyone here loves it and wish Chip and Joanna even more success!
Joanna’s Testimony
As if you could possibly fall in love with them any more, have a look at Joanna’s testimony she shared at The Gathering held at Baylor University in Waco ….

Here are a few of the places you see on the show in case you would like to visit. I won’t list their farmhouse for privacy reasons. Sorry.

  • The little shop on Bosque: Magnolia Market is located at 3801 Bosque Boulevard, Waco, Texas 76710 This cute little shop will be moving downtown once the silos open on October 30, 2015.
    Chip and Joanna Gaines' 'Little Shop on Bosque' in Waco, Texas on www.PieLadyLife.com
    Chip and Joanna Gaines’ ‘Little Shop on Bosque’ will be moving once the Silo project is complete.
  • Harp Design Company: 808 N. 15th St, Waco, Texas 76707 They have a cute shop to visit and you can even see their house that was on the show. My grandparents lived right down N.15th Street, so it was super fun watching their home’s transformation.
  • Stars Over Texas: Our friend Jimmy Don’s metal workshop on Hwy 317 in Crawford, Texas. He isn’t open with a ‘shop’ anymore because of all the signs he is making for Joanna. He did some of our metal work in our restaurant. We recommended his work long before JDH became a television star! Great guy!
  • Magnolia Silo Project: Update!!! The Silo’s are OPEN now!! They held a soft open on Monday, October 12, 2015! Time to shop! Future home of everything Magnolia. They are renovating the old Brazos Valley Cotton Oil Company site at 601 Webster in downtown Waco. The complex will house their offices, retail space, a monthly market and daily food trucks will be on the property. We are supposed to get a glimpse of the ongoing work during season two of Fixer-Upper. Grand opening is slated for October 30, 2015 with shopping all day and a big party featuring a Johnnyswim concert in the evening. Scroll down for more silo photos.
  • Magnolia Silo Project in downtown Waco. Future home of all things Magnolia. Home base for HGTV's Fixer UpperMagnolia Silo Project in downtown Waco. Future home of all things Magnolia.


Waco is a great place for shopping!

A few other places to shop while you’re in Waco. Some you’ve already seen on the show and others you may spot very soon:

LaSalle Shops: 2223A LaSalle Ave, Waco Open Tue-Fri 10AM-6PM, Sat 10-5PM, Sun 1-5PM Lots of antique shopping and several more shops to visit along LaSalle. This was the very first store I recognized on the show.

A glimpse inside the Cedar Chest Antique Mall. This place is an antique lovers dream! www.PieLadyLife.com
A glimpse inside the Cedar Chest Antique Mall. This place is an antique lovers dream!
Cedar Chest Antique Mall and Market: 31707 W. Hwy 84, McGregor, TX 76657 Open Mon-Sat 9:30AM-5:30PM, Sun 1-5PM Really huge place with antiques galore! Make sure you reserve plenty of time to go through the biggest antique store in the Waco area. My favorite place to shop! On top of that,there are plenty more antique shops in the area. Another right next door and several in the downtown area. You really should take time for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and my famous pie (shameless plug!) at our restaurant, The Coffee Shop Cafe (past the light on Hwy 84) then drive by the awesome home at 323 Madison that the Fixer Upper crew are working on for season three. You’ve seen a few sneak peeks on Joanna’s Instagram page. A sweet friend of ours lived in this charming 1850’s home that includes a working elevator and a stairway that is super narrow. Its future, after renovation, is to become a B&B. You could possibly come stay in a real Fixer Upper very soon! So cool!! Don’t ya think!!??

Update about the B&B: Joanna publicly confirmed the B&B and that the reveal had taken place on her Instagram last night (Nov 16, 2015) and we couldn’t be more excited! She posted a photo of the gorgeous staircase in the open living area! I’ve  observed the renovation and even had a blessed day helping my friend with a project at the house one day!!! EEK!!! So FUN! Be sure to check back later because I intend to be respectful and not post photos, etc until Jo, Chip or HGTV share more about it. I know, I know… There are pictures all over Facebook, but I’m going to stick to this. Be sure to watch the Christmas special on HGTV premiering Dec. 22, at 9 p.m. ET/PT! This is a Fixer Upper masterpiece!

Charming home in McGregor (just outside Waco) that you'll be seeing on season three of Fixer Upper!
Charming home in McGregor (just outside Waco) that you’ll be seeing on season three of Fixer Upper!

Laverty’s Antiques: 600 N. 18th St, Waco This one would be really difficult to visit if you are from out of town. It was kind of a secret reserved for those ‘in the know’ until they were on Fixer Upper. They are only open a few days a month and the only way you know when is to subscribe to their emails at Lavertysemail@gmail.com. You can always drive by and take a look through the windows where Chip found his cool tool belt with suspenders in season one (as seen in my photo at the top of the page. HaHa!) Wasn’t that a great episode!? He’s so funny!

Future home of The Findery in the old Percy Medicine building at 8th & Webster across from Magnolia silos on www.PieLadyLife.com
Future home of The Findery in the old Percy Medicine building at 8th & Webster across from Magnolia silos in downtown Waco, Texas
Jute Designs is expanding and moving into their new home this fall across the street from the Magnolia silos in downtown Waco. They are renovating the old Percy Medicine building at 8th and Webster. Built in 1908, the two story brick jewel was the manufacturing complex where Percy Medicine was made. My grandmothers cure for upset stomachs and mine too when my kiddos were little. With their new industrial chic building also comes their new name, The Findery. These ladies stock some fabulous furniture, home decor, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, cute bags and various other items like my favorite travel tote! You can follow along on their Facebook page. Can. Not. Wait. Till. They. Open! Meanwhile, visit them inside Spice Village at 5th and Mary across from the Hilton in downtown Waco.

More of my personal favorites:

Christi’s: 1023 Austin Ave, Waco Open Tue-Sat 10AM-5PM This is a magical shop owned by Waco’s own, Christi Proctor who was a designer on TLC’s “Trading Spaces!” Upscale decor and of course, design services! She has her own line of bedding that is absolutely gorgeous!

Papillon Antiques: 1025 Austin Ave, Waco Open Tue-Fri 10:30AM-5:30PM, Sat 10:30AM-2:30PM. Right next door to Christi’s is this upscale shop featuring French antiques and decor.

Honey’s Home+Style: 1700 Austin Ave, Waco Open Tue-Sat 10:30AM-5:30PM A great mix of antiques (including French) and new home decor.

You can spend several days in Waco! It’s a great place to live in and to visit! Here is another page to check out things to do and see in our community : Visiting Waco, Texas

More silo photos. The renovation is coming along nicely! Can’t wait for them to be ready and open this fall!

Magnolia Market silos coming along! Photo taken August 2016 www.PieLadyLife.com
Magnolia Market silos coming along! Photo taken August 2016