We learned how to make risotto with The Chef & The Dish

We learned how to make risotto with The Chef & The Dish

We’ve always wanted to learn how to make risotto. So, when The Chef & The Dish reached out to us (read more about that HERE) and offered us a complimentary cooking class where we’d learn how to make risotto not just one, but two ways, the answer was a definite yes! We invited our friends and fellow foodies, Jeff and Ciana Cloud to join us. Not only do they enjoy cooking (and eating), but Jeff is also a professional photographer. He was gracious enough to document our culinary experience so I could focus on cooking. Many Jeff Cloud Photography photographs are featured in this post.

Both couples cooking with The Chef & The Dish

Left: Our friends Jeff and Ciana Cloud came to cook with us (right).

The Chef & The Dish cooking class

Our cooking class began with introductions. Coming to us from her small village near Milan, Italy, Chef Paola was eager to learn a little bit about us and asked about our favorite Italian dishes. She went on to give us little history of each dish we’d mentioned, and then began to tell us about training as a chef, the region in Italy from which she was teaching us, and the significance of the dishes we were about to make.

Chef Paola The Chef & The Dish

During our lesson, Chef Paola taught us a little bit about her hometown in Italy.

The five of us spent more than 20 minutes just talking and it was so helpful to get to know our teacher a bit and learn about her village, as well as the history of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese we were about to use in all of our dishes.

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese The Chef & The Dish

The star of the show, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Note the distinctive dots on the rind that show it is authentic. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Dessert first

Then, it was time to get cooking. We poured four glasses of Prosecco (our course) and got work. First, we tackled dessert – a poached pear filled with a lemon and ricotta filling, topped with honey, walnuts, thyme, and of course, finely grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese.

Pears for The Chef & The Dish

Clockwise: Bosc pears in the store, Steve zests a lemon under the watchful eye of chef Paola, spices for the poached pears,  cut and cored pears before poaching.

Chef Paola taught us how to properly peel and zest the lemon. She also gave us specific instructions on how to core the Bosc pears and open the tiny pods of cardamom seeds.

The Chef & The Dish poached pears

These are pears we made a few weeks later for a dinner party at our house. See, we learned!

Everything went into a pan and cooked for 15-20 minutes until the pears were cooked through and the liquid was syrupy (that’s a word, right?). Ciana mixed up the filling and put everything in the refrigerator. More on the dessert, later.

Fun with The Chef & the Dish

Chef Paola encouraged us to enjoy our time together and have fun. The experience was stress-free and everyone had a blast. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Tips for the best bruschetta

Next, while sipping Prosecco, we began assembling our Italian bruschetta. This is one of my favorite appetizers and something I’d made many times before. However, Chef Paola’s instructions were a bit different from what I’d normally done. Details she mentioned like toasting the bread until it was quite blackened, and not adding the olive oil until the very end, made all the difference.

The Chef and the Dish bruschetta

Ann, Ciana, and Steve work together to assemble the bruschetta. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Finished bruschetta with The Chef and the Dish

The finished bruschetta with the blackened toast and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese was the most authentic tasting we’ve had in the U.S. Yum! (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

How to make risotto

Then, it was on to the main dish – risotto. This is one of those dishes that I love ordering when we’re out for dinner at a fancy restaurant. It tastes so creamy and delicious and has always seemed way too complicated to cook at home. I was wrong. Check out this short video below of Chef Paola telling us how to make risotto.

Chef Paola included all of us in the cooking and walked us through making each dish one step at a time. She explained that we needed to treat the risotto like a baby. We were told to watch it constantly, don’t leave it alone, and give it water when it seems a bit dry. We followed all of her instructions, and even brought the pan closer to the computer camera once for Chef Paola to better see (without dumping it all over the keyboard).

Chef Paola olive oil

In addition to showing us how to make risotto, Chef Paola also gave us a lesson in the right way to taste olive oil. Much to Steve’s delight, it includes loud slurping. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Then, she invited one of us to try tossing the risotto in the pan to fluff it up. Steve volunteered (while I closed my eyes) and he did a great job tossing the creamy rice in the pan just like Chef Paola demonstrated from her home kitchen in Italy.

The Chef & The Dish Flipping risotto

Following Chef Paola’s instructions, Steve flips the risotto near the end of the cooking process. (Photos by Jeff Cloud)

Time to gather at the table

When the risotto was finished cooking, we each took a spoon and gave it a taste. It was amazing and none of us could believe we’d made it ourselves. Then, Chef Paola suggested giving our risotto a new twist. She had us put fresh strawberries in a blender and add the puree to the risotto.

We blended fresh strawberries just until they were all broken up and added them to the cheesy risotto.

We blended fresh strawberries just until they were all broken up and added them to the cheesy risotto. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

We plated the risotto on one of our wedding china plates (we actually use them quite a bit) with a small depression in the center and patted the bottom just like a baby’s bottom to even it out on the plate. Next, we finished the dish with a few sprinkles of pureed strawberries and more finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Our finished strawberry risotto. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

We all loved learning how to make risotto. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

It was finally time to eat. We gathered around the table, gazing at the beautifully plated dishes and astonished that the four of us had made them. Of course we snapped a few photographs before we tasted our culinary masterpieces. They were all absolutely delicious.

Whole meal with The Chef & The Dish

The plated meal on the table included classic Italian bruschetta (on an olive board we bought in Italy this summer), strawberry risotto, and a poached pear dessert. All dishes featured Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Savoring every bite

We took our time savoring each bite of the meal and reminiscing about our cooking experience with The Chef & The Dish. All agreed that this video conference cooking class was one of the most unique and satisfying culinary experiences we’d ever had. While we are all confident we could recreate these dishes on our own (in fact, we did make the pears for a dinner party this week), the only thing better would be traveling to Italy and cooking it there. Someday.

While our culinary experience with The Chef & The Dish was complimentary, the opinions and newly gained cooking skills are our own. Thank you, Jeff Cloud, for the use of your fantastic photos! You can find Jeff on Facebook at Jeff Cloud Photography


Learn how to make risotto and bruschetta with The Chef & The Dish

Learn how to make risotto and bruschetta with The Chef & The DishSaveSaveSaveSave


A glimpse inside our new house (and life) in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

A glimpse inside our new house (and life) in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

It was two weeks ago yesterday that we moved into our new house in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, and we are so excited to be here! We spent much of the first week unpacking, getting utilities hooked up, and just finding our way around town.

Pawhuska house before bringing boxes in.

A view from the dining room into the living room on move-in day.

We brought a U-Haul full of stuff from Nebraska and are trying our best to fill in with purchases made locally in Pawhuska. We’ve been to four auctions, scavenged the local thrift and consignment stores, and found some things at local places like The Buckin’ Flamingo, Prairie Cottage, The Book Burrow, and The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.

Pawhuska house Buckin' Flamingo window frame

We purchased this window frame at the Buckin’ Flamingo in downtown Pawhuska.

Admittedly, we’ve had to run to nearby Bartlesville for a few items and did some online shopping for things we couldn’t find in town, but the house is really coming together and feeling more like home every day.

Pawhuska house shelves

It has been fun filling book shelves with items found in local shops, like these books from the Book Burrow and the horse head bookend from Sister’s Attic.

The decorating is not complete and we still need to finalize a few details like end tables, lamps, and chairs (ha!), but we wanted to give y’all a little peek inside our place, anyway. So here we go!

First, you must know that the former owners did an amazing job remodeling this 1,500 square foot, 1930’s craftsman house. They stripped all the wood floors, updated the fireplace, took out a wall that separated the kitchen and dining area and gutted both the kitchen and full bath, among other things. Take a look at this entryway.

We love the bright entryway that the front door opens into. Not sure exactly what we're going to do with this space yet, but Ann is already picturing a Christmas tree in the window.

We love the bright entryway that the front door opens up into. Not sure exactly what we’re going to do with this space yet, but Ann is already picturing a Christmas tree in the window.

I love the bright sunlight that fills this space in the morning. Still trying to figure out what to put in this room, but I’m thinking about some kind of cozy chair(s) to curl up in with a cup of coffee or a good book. And aren’t the natural floors just beautiful?

Pawhuska house hardwood floors

The previous owners sanded and refinished the original hardwood floors. They are beautiful and we love that they left blemishes and original nails.

Pawhuska house living room

We love the way the sunlight comes in first thing in the morning.

The entryway opens up into a pretty good-sized living room, which we love. We’re hopeful that the temperatures here in Oklahoma will eventually cool down and we’ll want to use the fireplace.

Pawhuska house antique chair

This antique chair was given to us by Ann’s mom years ago. She had it in her first home when Ann was just a baby and it is so nice to have it with us in Pawhuska.

The bright yellow Tonka truck by the fireplace in the photo below was accidentally purchased at our first auction. I thought we were bidding on two round end tables and alerted Steve to bid. Without hesitation, he quickly raised his paper plate buyer’s number and the auctioneer said, “Sold!” Sadly, we were actually bidding on the truck (which we got for $10) and are still without end tables. Nonetheless, it makes a good conversation piece.

Pawhuska house fireplace

The beautiful fireplace in the living room with a working gas log is one of our favorite parts of the house. The Tonka truck was an accidental purchase at an auction. Long story, but great conversation piece.

Pawhuska house Harp Design candlesticks

We purchased these candlesticks from Harp Design Co., in Waco, Texas, last summer. We visited there two days after our first visit to Pawhuska.

Pawhuska living room

The living room of our Pawhuska home. The blue tape is where we’ll put a really cool map of Oklahoma that we’ve ordered.

We’ve tried to make the living room comfy, cozy and welcoming to friends and visitors. We’ve already had a few people stop by and can’t wait for Steve’s mom and dad to come for a visit in a few weeks.

As you know, we’ve picked up a few things for the house at area auctions, including this cute Crete Carrier collectible semi truck. While this large carrier company is now headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, it started in nearby Crete, Nebraska, where we have roots. Still need to find a real picture for that crackled frame.

Pawhuska house Crete truck.

We found this Crete Carrier Corp. toy truck at a local auction and thought it would be a great nod to our Nebraska roots. Crete Carrier is now based in Lincoln, but started in our hometown. Oh, and we still need a new photo for that frame.

Another little slice of memorabilia we’ve added to the bookcase in the living room is this selfie from a June 2017 road trip we had with our daughter, Meghan. This was the day after Steve’s last day as middle school principal and was taken just before we rolled into Pawhuska for the first time. We could never have imagined buying a house here just a little more than a year later and this photo is a great reminder that you never know how a new adventure will impact the rest of your life.

Picture entering Pawhuska

We took this picture in the summer of 2017 as we passed the sign coming in to Pawhuska for the first time. We never would have imagined that day that we’d own a house here a year later.

Of course, a postcard jar also made the move and this one is filled with postcards from all over the world sent to us by readers like you. We have been so blessed by your greetings and the opportunities to get to know so many wonderful people through our blog.

Pawhuska house postcard jar

Well, it just wouldn’t be home without a postcard jar.

We’re also getting to know our neighbors here and have visited two different churches. We’ve familiarized ourselves with new aisles at the grocery store and found new shortcuts across town (although you get about anywhere is less than three minutes).

The high school football team debuts on a new turf field this Friday night and we’re looking forward to that. We hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek inside our new home and life here in Oklahoma. We’ll share more later but right now, we need to take a break from blogging and get over to El Vallarta’s for the $4.99 lunch special.


We recently bought 1,500 sq. ft. home in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Here's a peek inside.

We recently bought 1,500 sq. ft. home in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Here’s a peek inside.

Traditional anniversary gifts for couples who love to travel

Traditional anniversary gifts for couples who love to travel

Six years ago today, after one year of dating and a two-month engagement, Steve and I were married in a beautiful wedding ceremony at 10:30 in the morning at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Photo by Aaron Babcock

Yes, 10:30 a.m. is a non-traditional time for a wedding, but that’s what you get when you book the church just eight weeks out. Fortunately, we’re both morning people anyway and Steve was happy to have a brunch wedding reception where he got to eat bacon on his wedding day.

A year later, when we had our first wedding anniversary in 2012, we had no idea what to get each other. Having gotten married when we were ages 38 and 42, we had accumulated almost everything we really needed or wanted before we said, “I do.” So, we decided to commemorate the occasion with a photo each year and instead of trying to figure out gifts for each other, we’d purchase something together for our home.

On our first anniversary, we took a photo of us holding our wedding picture. Each year, we add a new picture in the picture, in the picture …

Then, in another nod to traditionalism (after all, we had organ music at our ceremony and we didn’t live together until the day after our wedding) we decided we’d try to find something each year that fit the traditional anniversary gift suggestions. You know the ones: paper, tin, china, silver, gold, pearls. We’d keep the cost to under $100 and just to add a twist of our own, decided we’d look for something related to our love for travel.

We are celebrating our 6th anniversary this year, and so far, we’ve been able to stay within our budget (mostly), the traditions, and the travel theme. Who knows how long we’ll be able to keep it up, but at least for now, we’ve added some unique pieces to our home, and created lasting memories of our travels. Here’s a look at the gifts we’ve given ourselves to celebrate our first six years of marriage.

Sixth Anniversary: Iron

Our sixth year of marriage took us lots of new directions. But the important thing is, we went in those new directions together. We focused more on our blog, we traveled to new places like St. Kitts in the Caribbean and Pawhuska, Oklahoma, and we got more involved in our church and local community. And, as you may recall, after 21 years in public education, Steve resigned his position this spring and we’re still trying to figure out just exactly where to go from here. Needless to say, this iron compass wall art seemed like an appropriate anniversary gift this year, as we aren’t sure which direction we’ll go next.

For our sixth anniversary, we ordered this gold compass wall art that we plan to hang in our home office. It is sold by a family-owned Etsy business called AlacartCreations.

We found this metal compass on Etsy in a shop called AlacartCreations. It sells for $79, so it was under our budget. Ironically, we don’t have it in hand just yet because when we ordered it the seller was on  vacation, which we totally understand. We’ll look forward to getting in when she returns and when we do, it and will be a lasting reminder of the new direction our lives took in our sixth year together.

Fifth Anniversary: Wood

There were lots of options for gifts made out of wood for our fifth anniversary. We considered some type of wooden picture frame or custom wooden sign but both seemed a bit ordinary and meaningless. Then, a few days before our anniversary, while browsing at a local shop called Home & Closet (a must see if you’re anywhere near Lincoln, Neb.), we spotted this small, wooden box, and we knew it was meant to be.

We found this adorable wooden box for $25 at Home & Closet in Lincoln, Neb. It holds lots of travel memorabilia from our first five years of marriage and will look great in the home office we are redecorating.

It would fit perfectly in the home office we were in the middle remodeling and it was just the right size for storing some of the memorabilia we’ve collected from our travels these first five years. We snatched it up for $25 (or least expensive anniversary gift yet) and filled it with ticket stubs, photographs, hotel keys, and of course, a few postcards.

We save some of the memorabilia from our travels such as ticket stubs, photo booth photos, and postcards.

We save some of the memorabilia from our travels such as ticket stubs, photo booth photos, and postcards.

Fourth Anniversary: Flowers

The fourth anniversary was probably the most difficult one to figure out. The traditional gift is flowers and we had a difficult time thinking of something to purchase that wasn’t going to die in a week to 10 days. Then, Steve had a great idea! “Let’s travel to the Rose Bowl this year!”

Well, that was bit over our budgeted $100 limit, so we scratched that idea. Pinterest and Etsy were dead ends too, so I came up with something on my own. I have always enjoyed photographing flowers when we travel, so I went back through my photographs and selected 16 pictures I’d taken of flowers on our travels together — like this one below.

We ran across the most amazing flower garden before leaving Anchorage, Alaska.

We ran across the most amazing flower garden before leaving Anchorage, Alaska.

I arranged them in a 4×4 grid (since it was our 4th anniversary) and for about $60, purchased a framed print of the flower photos from www.socialprintstudio.com (formerly Printstagram) that arrived just in time for our anniversary. It turned out great!

It’s so fun to look back at flowers from some of our favorite places, including Costa Rica; Marathon, Fla.; Monaco; Muir Woods; Monticello; the Nebraska Sandhills; Sonoma Valley; and Las Vegas.

It includes photographs of wildflowers we spotted along on the highway in the Nebraska Sandhills; the wisteria we saw while on a wine tasting trip to Sonoma; gorgeous flowers we found in Anchorage, Alaska; and even the flowers from a bouquet at our wedding. They all bring back wonderful memories of the places we went during our first four years of marriage and the picture was a great addition to a gallery wall/shelf in our dining room this summer.

Our fourth anniversary gift fits in great with this gallery wall/shelf in our dining room.

Our fourth anniversary gift fits in great with this gallery wall/shelf in our dining room.

 Third Anniversary: Leather

This one was a little tricky, so I just Googled “travel related leather anniversary gifts.” I got quite the array of suggestions but wasn’t really impressed with leather passports covers or luggage tags I saw online. Then I ran across a shop on Etsy called Killogrin Creations, that makes a subway scroll on leather with your life’s journey for about $70. It was perfect!

leather sign

Steve and I narrowed a list of places we’d traveled in our first three years of marriage to nine and sent it to the online store. In a couple weeks, we had a unique, customized piece made of leather and the perfect gift for travelers like us.

We included a variety of cities to which we’d traveled. They weren’t all necessarily our favorites, but they were the places that best summarized out first three years together — our honeymoon to La Fortuna, Costa Rica; our first family vacation to Ketchikan, Alaska; three Sine Die Adventure cities (Chicago, Nashville, and San Diego);  Branson, Missouri, near where our daughter went to college; destinations from our first trip to Europe together (Monaco and Salzburg); and of course, Rochester, Minnesota, where we traveled the most for my appointments at the Mayo Clinic there.

Second Anniversary: Cotton

For our second anniversary, I found these great hand painted, continent pillow covers on uncommongoods.com. They fit perfectly in our downstairs living room that has a bit of a travel theme going on already.

I purchased this set of three continent pillows from uncommongoods.com for about $95.

I purchased this set of three continent pillows from uncommongoods.com for about $95.

According to the website, the pillows cases are made of 100% cotton and the decoration is applied using Batik, a traditional Indian art to create patterns on fabric. The company that makes them helps the greater good by providing fair wages and development opportunities for artisans in South West India. I think they look fantastic on the sofa in our family room year round.

This set of three cotton continent pillows was a perfect addition to our travel-themed family room.

 First Anniversary: Paper

The first anniversary was pretty easy. Paper maps seemed like the most logical travel-related gift and we had already thought about purchasing maps to document our travels.

We display our world map in our family room and add numbered pins to the new places we travel to each year.

We display our world map in our family room and add numbered pins to the new places we travel to each year.


We had gotten the idea from Steve’s grandparents, Bud and Kathleen Teget, who had displayed a large world map in their den, marking the 70-plus countries to which they’d traveled together.  We loved the idea, so for our first anniversary, we purchased a world map and a U.S. map at a local office supply store. We took both to a local framer who laminated the maps, mounted them on foam core, and framed them in wood frames for about $100 each (I know, double the budget on the first year).

Our U.S. map hangs above our piano and marks all the places we’ve traveled together.

On our first anniversary, we hung the maps on the walls in our basement and stuck a #1 pin in the first place we traveled as newlyweds: Costa Rica. We just love the maps and can’t wait to add pins to them each time we return from a trip. I found the number pins HERE on Amazon.

We've been adding numbered pins to our map each time we travel abroad.

We’ve been adding numbered pins to our map each time we travel abroad.

Anniversaries are special for us and we love celebrating them. We both waited a long time before we found one another and our traditional anniversary gifts are wonderful reminders of just how blessed we are to be on this journey together.

Next year for our 7th anniversary, the traditional gift is copper. Any suggestions? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

As always, thanks for sharing and Pinning!

Traditional wedding anniversary gifts for couples who love to travel

Traditional wedding anniversary gifts for couples who love to travel



More than candlesticks: What we found at Clint Harp’s shop

More than candlesticks: What we found at Clint Harp’s shop

No Fixer Upper fan’s trip to Waco, Texas, would be complete without a stop at carpenter extraordinaire Clint Harp’s design company. When we were in Waco last month visit Magnolia Market [read more about that HERE], we took a little jaunt about a mile down the road to get a glimpse of Harp’s white distressed candle sticks and farmhouse tables up close.

Things we loved about the Harp Design Company in Waco, Texas

Hand turned candlesticks are for sale at the Harp Design Co.

Things we loved about the Harp Design Company in Waco, Texas

Beautiful displays of home decor at the Harp Design Co.

We weren’t disappointed. The store was filled with Clint Harp originals, including his signature candlesticks, along with lots of other home decor items curated by Clint’s wife, Kelly. It really was beautiful.

Things we loved about the Harp Design Company in Waco, Texas

There are lots of great decor items for sale at the Harp Design Co.

I loved looking around the small shop at the perfectly-organized displays full of wooden treasures, unique wall decor, and lots of pretty things for the kitchen — like wooden chargers and cutting boards.

Things we loved about the Harp Design Company in Waco, Texas

A slice of a large tree branch serves as a charger for a place setting at the Harp Design Co.

Things we loved about the Harp Design Company in Waco, Texas

Hand made cutting boards at the Harp Design Company

I knew before we went to Harp Design Co. that I wanted to purchase three of the hand turned candlesticks, and it was fun to pick each of them out, as no two pieces were the same. I thought they were reasonably priced ($23-36) and liked that they all had the HDC logo branded into the bottom.

Things we loved about the Harp Design Company in Waco, Texas

Hand turned candlesticks beautifully displayed at Harp Design Co.

One of the displays that really caught my eye was the wall of distressed letters made of reclaimed wood. They were difficult to resist. So I didn’t.

Things we loved about the Harp Design Company in Waco, Texas

These handmade letters at the Harp Design Co. are made with reclaimed wood.

I added the letters “G” and “O” to my pile of candlesticks and looked forward to hanging them on a gallery wall in our new home office. They will be a great addition to the wall, along with lots of other travel memorabilia, maps, and pictures.

After making our purchases, we ventured outside the shop to check out the Harp House next door. The Harp House, is the former home of Clint and Kelly Harp, where they lived for more than two years after the house was renovated by Chip and Joanna Gaines on a season one episode of Fixer Upper. The Harps don’t live there anymore, and we completely understand their desire for a bit more privacy.

Things we loved about the Harp Design Company in Waco, Texas

The Harp House that was featured on Fixer Upper is now available for guest bookings.

Do you remember this house “before?” It was featured in season one, episode five and was titled “The 15th Street Story.” The house had been been abandoned for several years and was filled with trash. The Gaines renovated the house, bringing back amazing wood floors and designing a kitchen in which anyone would love to cook. Clint put his touches on the house by crafting a gorgeous front door, kitchen island, and staircase. You can read more about the renovation and see before and after pictures HERE.

Things we loved about the Harp Design Company in Waco, Texas

The beautiful front door of the Harp House featured on Fixer Upper.

Today, the house is available for people to stay and is perfect for couples, families, or group retreats. The high ceilings, beautiful kitchen, and multiple living spaces make it a great place for visitors to Waco, and it’s right next door to the Harp Design Co.,  just in case you want to shop for candlesticks.

Have you visited Harp Design Co. in Waco, Texas? What did you think? Did you buy anything special? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

As always, thanks for sharing (and pinning).

Harp Design Co. in Waco, Texas.

Explaining shiplap and shams to my husband at Magnolia Market

Explaining shiplap and shams to my husband at Magnolia Market

I’m still not quite sure how I convinced Steve to visit The Pioneer Woman Mercantile and lodge as well as Magnolia Market within 24 hours, but I did. After spending two days in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, where he waited in line almost two hours for a taste of Ree Drummond’s chicken fried steak while I shopped for kitchen accessories, Steve drove our daughter, Meghan, and me to Waco, Texas.

Steve: I’d just left my job as a school principal refereeing middle-school girl drama the day before only to find myself surrounded by middle-aged women going crazy for whisks and sprigs. Seriously, what was I thinking? I mean, the chicken fried steak was good, but how much can one man take?

I had wanted to visit Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Market for some time after watching their now Emmy-nominated home renovation and decorating show, Fixer Upper, on HGTV. 

Magnolia Market #milestomagnolia

Meghan, Ann and Steve in front of the silos at Magnolia Market.


I had dreamed of walking into their meticulously organized home decor shop with stacks of wooden candlesticks, vases of flowers, and white washed shiplap walls.

What the heck is shiplap? Is that a word?

When we arrived in Waco, we made our way toward the now famous silos and began to look for a place to park. We found a great spot just a block or two away at the First Baptist Church parking lot. They charged what I thought was a very reasonable $10 for the day.

Magnolia Market Baptist Church parking

First Baptist Church offered $10 parking in the church lot near Magnolia Market.

Ten dollars? It’s not like it’s a Nebraska football game or anything!

Our first stop on the hallowed ground was at the newly renovated Silos Baking Co. building. It was absolutely adorable from the outside and I was so excited to get in line and wait our turn for a glimpse at the interior. I bribed Steve to join me in line with a promise of a cupcake at the end.

Not another line! Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I mean, I like a cupcake, but let’s be honest, it’s not a chicken fried steak.

Despite his reluctance, he agreed to wait in line with me (again) and eventually, we made our way into the sweetest little cupcake shop I’ve ever seen. 

Loved this letter board sign on the wall at Silos Baking Co.

It was just like I remembered on TV — glossy white subway tile, black industrial shelving, and perfectly laid herringbone flooring. It was beautiful.

What did she think I was going to do? I’d already paid the Baptists $10 to park. I was getting a cupcake. And the Prize Pig bacon and cheddar biscuit.

The Silos Baking Co.

Eventually, we did get inside and each of us ordered a cupcake. I selected a Strawberries & Cream cupcake piled high with rich, pink, vanilla buttercream icing. Meg had the Lemon Lavender cupcake while Steve ordered the Silobration cupcake which was a vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles. The Shiplap cupcake and garnish looked amazing, as well. 

The menu at Silos Baking Co.

Magnolia Market silos baking shiplap cupcakes

The shiplap cupcake is vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream icing.

Okay. There is a shiplap flavored cupcake? Now I’m completely confused.

Of course, before we left the bakery, I had to check out the bathroom and see how it compared to the one at the Mercantile back in Pawhuska. It was just as well designed and included gorgeous black and white wallpaper, more white subway tile, and nicely framed inspirational quotes–all the things I love to see in a well decorated bath.

No Charmin toilet paper here, but I was glad to see they had Febreeze on the back of the toilet, if you know what I mean.

Magnolia Market Silos Baking bathroom

The bathroom in the Silos Baking Company.


After finishing our cupcakes on the outside patio, we began our ascent to The. Magnolia. Market. I was like a kid on Christmas morning, anxiously anticipating the wondrous gifts that awaited me inside.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death … 

The front view of Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas.

I had imagined the rich colors and textures of the rugs and blankets as well as the decorative lanterns and wall hangings that would surely adorn the shelves inside. I had my budget and my list and I couldn’t wait to go inside. But two steps into the front door, I found something unexpected.

I totally expected it.

Sadly, ivory colored candles and Clint Harp designed spindles did not immediately come into view. All I saw were women. Lots of women. And they were all frantically looking around, holding up various items and asking each other which would look better on their farmhouse table — the white sugar mold tray or the metal trough with wooden handles? They had armfuls of floral stems and seagrass baskets and Joanna’s leather totes draped over their shoulders.  

And I was thinking, “What fresh hell have I gotten myself into?”

As much as I love home decor, and believe me, I love home decor, it was a lot even for me. However, I was determined to find a few of the items I’d seen on Fixer Upper and spend at least some of the Magnolia Market gift card Steve had gotten me for my birthday the month before.

Magnolia Market store interior

Shoppers seeking that perfect home decor item at Magnolia Market.

Magnolia Market candlesticks

Wooden spindle candlesticks at Magnolia Market.

Staying together was obviously a lost cause, so Steve, Meghan, and I decided to separate and meet back near the front door in 20 minutes. Steve began a search for what he calls a “man chair” where he could sit and wait. Finding none, he ventured over to Chip’s Corner while I began to look around. I admired the handcrafted wooden serving trays, Jimmy Don’s metal signs, and the simplistic colors of all of the throw pillows Joanna had seemingly designed.

Tell me the difference again between a throw pillow and a sham.

It really was a beautiful store. Everything was there … the vintage seltzer crates, dozens of metal baskets, row after row of decorative flowers and all kinds of vintage metal letters that have become a signature design element for Joanna Gaines. I was in home decor heaven. Look at these pictures. Would you look at them?

Magnolia Market decorative sprigs

Some of the many floral stems at Magnolia Market.

Magnolia Market decorative signs


Magnolia Market decorative letters

Decorative lettering at Magnolia Market.

Magnolia Market paint colors

Paint colors are displayed on paintbrushes at Magnolia Market.

I made my way through the crowds of people women and found the items I was hoping to see — the signature Magnolia wreath, wooden pillar candle sticks, and the Aspen leaf stems I’d been unable to find back home.

I found a slingshot!

Steve had a great time playing around in Chip’s Corner

Chip’s Corner at Magnolia Market.

Even though it seemed to be moving quickly, I took one look at the long line at the checkout counter and decided that it might be best to come back later in the day to make our purchases.

Praise the Lord! I didn’t have to stand in another line!

We left the main store and ventured out back to a plaza-like family play area. People were lounging around at picnic tables, playing yard games with their kids, and enjoying the swings under the sunny Texas sky.

And, we were surrounded by food trucks! Things were looking up!

Magnolia Market silos

The iconic silos at Magnolia Market.

We grabbed an iced coffee from the Common Grounds food truck and found a shady spot to people watch for a bit. It was nice to see so many local restaurants have a chance to get in on a piece of the action by bringing their food trucks right onto the site. Club Sandwich, Milos, Co-Town Crepes, and Chuck’s Gourmet Popcorn all had spots near the lawn and visitors were able to enjoy a bite to eat and just chill out. 

Magnolia Market plaza

The plaza area behind the store where families and people could hang out.

After our refreshing beverage, we made our way over to the Magnolia Seed Supply shop where we walked through luscious garden beds filled with flowers, vegetables and herbs and even a fairy garden or two.

Umm …  I’m not even going to ask.

Magnolia Market fairy garden

A fairy garden.

Magnolia Market seed garden

Magnolia Seed and Supply has beautiful gardens with flowers, vegetables and herbs.

Magnolia Market herbs

One of the herb gardens at Magnolia Market

I loved smelling all of the fresh herbs and admiring the succulents which were displayed in such beautiful ways.

Magnolia Market air plants

There are lots of air plants available for sale at Magnolia Seed & Supply.

We purchased a few seed packets and a gift for my sister who has a newly-found love of gardening and then made our way back outside and down the street to the church parking lot.

Magnolia Market seeds

Loved these cute seed packets and plan to plant them in our garden boxes back home.

We spent the afternoon on a fantastic tour of the town with Waco Tours (more about that coming soon) and returned to Magnolia Market an hour or so before closing to make our purchases. I’m so glad we did.

Magnolia Market late in the day

The crowds are far smaller late in the day at Magnolia Market.

By that time, the crowds had dwindled and I was able to walk around the store with ease, oohing and ahhing over floral stems and glass jars, and visiting with several of the sweet employees who now had even more time to make us feel at home.

Magnolia Market helpful employee

One of the friendly, helpful employees at Magnolia Market.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much nicer it was near closing time. It was a much more relaxed atmosphere. And we were able to park on the street for free!

I found just the things I had come there to buy and right as I was about to check out, noticed a standing metal photo and card holder on the sale table! It was perfect for displaying our postcards so I added it to my pile.

Loved this metal card and photo holder we found on the sale table.

I’m pretty sure I’ve also seen a stand like that used by street vendors to display individual size packs of potato chips. Just sayin’.

We left the store just before closing time and took a few minutes to admire the outdoor spaces with far fewer people around. It was nice. We snapped some photos near the Silos and took it all in. 

Mother and daughter.

Our beautiful daughter, Meghan.

I’d had a great day in Waco. I couldn’t help but think about Chip and Joanna Gaines and how their love of family, community, and each other had inspired them build this amazing place that had become a bucket-list destination so many. It reminded me of the love I have for my own family and their continued willingness to do special things for me, like taking me on a pilgrimage across four states to look at home decor.

In the Gaines’ book, The Magnolia Story, they wrote that “there may be nothing greater than a life well loved.” I couldn’t agree more. And even though Steve can be quite a smarty pants at times, I always know how much I am loved.

Can’t argue with that. 

Have you been to Magnolia Market in Waco? What did you think? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

As always, thanks for sharing (and pinning)!

She said, he said at Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas.

A peek at this year’s new ornaments

A peek at this year’s new ornaments

For the past several years, we’ve decorated what we like to call our Christmas travel tree. [We wrote a blog post all about it that you can read HERE.] We had lots of help decorating for Christmas this year. Our daughter, Meghan, was home and we invited a couple local college students over. We also had the privilege of hosting Elodie, a young woman from France who we met on our cruise last summer.

Each year, typically Thanksgiving weekend, we empty our postcard jar and select a few postcards that best represent our year in travel and they go right onto the tree. We also hang new ornaments purchased from places we visited that year. It’s always fun to find and unpack the ornaments and reminisce about all of the wonderful things we were able to see and do each year. Here’s what’s new to the tree in 2016.

Ornament from Russia

We purchased this ornament in St. Petersburg, Russia, this summer. It was our first, and quite possibly our last visit to this former Soviet city. While we enjoyed seeing iconic places like Peterhof and the Hermitage Museum, there was much about St. Petersburg that still represented very dark times for the people there. As a side note, when we get new ornaments for the tree, if they don’t already have a year on them, I usually try to add it with a Sharpie permanent marker to help us remember what year we traveled where.

We put lots of new postcards on the tree this year, including two from Stockholm, Sweden. We were in Stockholm this summer while cruising on the Celebrity Eclipse and enjoyed a walking tour of the city, eating Swedish meatballs with pickles and lingonberries, and visiting the Vasa Museum.


The Vasa Museum gave us a fascinating look at a salvaged ship that sank in 1628 and spent 333 years on the sea bed. Of course, we had to get a postcard there.


Seeing Stonehenge in person for the first time was just amazing. It was our first stop after landing in London, England, this summer before embarking on our 14-night cruise through the Baltic Sea. We had both wanted to visit this iconic structure and we joined hundreds of other tourists that day who walked around the enormous stone structures shaking our heads. CLICK HERE for five interesting things we learned about Stonehenge.


Just three weeks later, we were back in our home state of Nebraska and couldn’t resist a stop at our own iconic replica — Carhenge, near Alliance, Nebraska. This crazy creation in the middle of a field is a Midwest favorite and a must-see when traveling the western end of the state. We wrote a blog post about it that you can read HERE.


This beautiful, hand painted ornament was one we found at a small, local shop in one of our favorite places, Tallinn, Estonia. We just loved Tallinn and it’s pastel buildings, colorful markets, and welcoming people.

Bath postcard

When we returned to England at the end of our cruise, we took a few days to explore some more of Great Britain. We took a train to Bath, England, and quickly wished we would have allowed more time in this incredible city. We toured the ancient Roman baths and even had a chance to soak in the thermal waters at the The Gainsborough Bath Spa. It was truly one of the most relaxing, luxurious days we’ve ever had.

Bath Abbey

In Bath, we also visited the Bath Abbey — twice. We stumbled upon it while walking the city streets and were absolutely amazed when we went inside. We’ve been to dozens of churches, cathedrals and abbeys on our travels, but there was something very different about this one. It was SO ACTIVE. There was organ music playing, children singing, and displays throughout that demonstrated the various ongoing ministries of the church. We spent a lot of time here and couldn’t resist purchasing a few books and this ornament from the gift shop before we left.

Bailey Yard

Just two days after returning from our summer vacation in Europe, our daughter, Meghan joined us for a week-long trip across Nebraska. We had a wonderful time exploring towns like Hastings, Grand Island, Scottsbluff, Crawford, Chadron, Valentine, and Norfolk. One of our favorite stops was Bailey Yard in North Platte. It is the largest railroad classification yard in the world and hosts a great display on the North Platte Canteen.


We picked up this ornament by local artist Beverly Clappsaddle at the Clear Lake Arts Center in Clear Lake, Iowa, this fall. We were on our way back from a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, when our travel blogging friend Sara, from Travel With Sara, mentioned a holiday open house in Clear Lake just as we were about to pass through there. We decided to make an unanticipated stop and were not disappointed.

Nebraska Life

The last postcard we decided to add to the tree this year was one we picked up in Norfolk, Nebraska, this summer. It is from our visit to the Nebraska Life Magazine office and is a great reminder that while we love traveling the world, it is always good to come home to The Good Life.