#Gr8Blogs Summer Road Trips 2018: Places to go and things to do in . . .

Western PA posterCheck the tire pressure.  Power up your GPS.  Dust off the maps.  We’re off on a family-friendly road trip across North America, Great Britain, and Australia in the #Gr8Blogs Summer Road Trips 2018.   My writerly pals and I are sharing insiders’ touring tips for your summertime fun.  I’m excited to guide you around my part of the world, WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA.  After your visit here, check out the links at the bottom of the page.  You can pop around the globe for other inspiring road trip ideas.

So, from this Western Pennsylvania gal, here are my top three suggestions of places to go and things to do in my part of the world.

#1:  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh is the cultural and sports hub of Northwestern Pennsylvania. There is so much to see and do – you could spend days exploring.

Strip District
The Pittsburgh Strip District

The Strip District:  This market area in downtown Pittsburgh is filled with unique shops, fresh flowers and produce, exotic grocery stores, restaurants, and of course, lots of shops with sports merchandise.  Pick up several loaves of Mancini bread, get all of your Italian supplies at the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, and the stop at Primanti Brothers’ Restaurant for one of their famous mile-high Primanti sandwiches loaded with meats, cheeses, and other goodies including French fries and coleslaw.  Primanti sandwiches are also sold at each of the sports stadiums if you are planning to take in a game.

Interior of the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts

Theater, Culture and Museums:  If you love Broadway, musicals, drama, ballet, the symphony, check out the schedule for Pittsburgh’s theater and cultural district.  If you are a museum lover, Pittsburgh offers a wide variety of musems.  A few include:  the Carnegie Science Museum,

Pittsburgh Incline
Pittsburgh Incline & city view

the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History, Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh History Center; the Andy Warhol Museum, the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning.  For kids:  the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.    If you enjoy exotic animals and plants, don’t miss the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, the National Aviary, and the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.  And for a great view of the city, head up to Mount Washington and take a ride on the Incline.

For additional information:

Pgh logosLove sports? Pittsburgh is of home of three major league sports teams. Links below. It’s also the home of  Rivers Casino if you enjoy playing the slots, and it’s within walking distance of the stadiums.

Pgh moviesFor Movie Buffs:  While looking up some of Pittsburgh’s highlights, I discovered that Pittsburgh has been the location for over 60 motion pictures.  I didn’t know that!  So movie fans, you might want to plan a drive around town and tour the locations of Pittsburgh’s “top 10 movies:”

  1. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  3. The Deer Hunter (1978)
  4. Wonder Boys (1999)
  5. Lorenzo’s Oil (1991)
  6. Angels in the Outfield (1951)
  7. Dogma (1998)
  8. Flashdance (1982)
  9. Hoffa (1992)
  10. Inspector Gadget (1998)

More about:  Movies Made in Pittsburgh

PghesePittburghese – just for fun:   If you listen carefully, maybe you’ll pick up some of the famous “Pittsburghese” language.  You might hear things like: “Yinz gotta be loose to rilly speak Pittsburghese.  Dere’s lotsa differ’nt parts to learn, but welcome to Picksburg.”

Loosely translated as:  “You’ve all got to be very loose to speak Pittsburghese.  There are a lot of different parts to learn, but welcome to Pittsburgh.”  Enjoy!   For more about Pittsburghese: More about Pittsburghese

#2:  A trip to our Amish Country is a must!   

New WilmingtonAn hour north of Pittsburgh are two charming little, country communities, New Wilmington and Volant.  These villages and the surrounding farm areas are the heart of our local Amish culture.  It’s hard to believe that there are communities within our modern society that exist and thrive without electricity and all the conveniences that the rest of us can’t live without!  However, if you visit our Amish area, you will see the Amish riding in their horse drawn buggies, shades of blue and gray laundry drying in the wind, and horses pulling the plows across the farmlands.  If you enjoy shopping, there are many shops in the Volant and New VolantWilmington that offer Amish goods, however, some Amish open their homes and sell colorful handmade quilted items, baked and canned goods, plants, and gorgeous handmade furniture.   If you only have a short time to drive through this area, make a quick stop at The Cheese House.  You will find not only a wide variety of delicious, locally made cheeses and deli meats, but also an abundance of Amish souvenirs, and homemade jams, jellies, and other canned goods.  If you stop at one of the roadside Amish baked goods stands, you might get lucky, and be able to purchase some of their melt-in-your-mouth, super-sized Amish donuts.  They are heavenly!  And if by chance, your horse needs it’s harness repaired, there are local Amish tack shops nearby, ready to assist.

#3: Pymatuning Lake and State Park 

Pymatuning mapI grew up on Pymatuning Lake, so I’m a little prejudiced.  As a country girl, I have to share this magical place I called home.  Pymatuning Lake State Park is about an hour and half north of Pittsburgh on the border of Pennsylvania and Ohio.  The lake is located within Pymatuning State Park and it’s the largest man-made lake in Pennsylvania: 18 miles long with over 26 square miles of lake surface.  The word “Pymatuning” is an Indian word that means “Man with the Crooked Mouth.”  If you look sideways at the shape of our lake on the map, it definitely looks like a crooked mouth.


If you love nature and outdoor recreation, there are lots of things to do at Pymatuning:  swim at our sandy Pymatuning picsbeaches, hike on the park trails, camp, fish, go boating, picnic, and have fun exploring.  While you are in the area, make sure to head over to the Pymatuning Spill Way and feed the fish!  There are so many fish, the duck’s walk on their backs!! You might also want to plan a visit to Jamestown’s (PA) Pymatuning Deer Park.  Build in 1953, this family friendly park features over 250 animals and birds from around the world, including black bears, lions, and camels.   Kids can take pony rides, and the family can take a train ride on the “Deer Park Express” and feed and pet the animals in the “Kiddie Zoo.”

Well that’s it for now.  Thanks for your company and for checking out our beautiful and exciting northwest Pennsylvania!  

So tell me about road trip favorites and must-sees in YOUR corner of the world?  Please share in the comments section. My writerly pals and I would love to virtual visit! And if you blog and want to hop with us, add a live hyperlink to your family-friendly road trip post in the comment section. We’ll swing by and give you some blog love!

There’s more more fun and inspirational Summer Road Trips ahead!  

Click over to your next destination at my #Gr8blogs pals below.  

Pals & Destinations


Halloweensie Contest for Children’s Writers: October 31, 2017

Children’s author, Susanna Leonard Hill, is hosting her 7th HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST. The rules: write a 100-word (or less) Halloween story for kids using the words candy cornmonster, and shadow (derivatives are permitted, and “candy corn” counts as one word).  I have entered other years.  It’s a challenging contest, but fun and mind bending.  Here is my 2017 entry (98 words!).  Enjoy!


By Rhonda Paglia ~ Grammy Pags Stories for Kids

“Shhstuck!  Help-p-p!  Shhstuck!”

Milton Monster thrashed around the floor of his bedroom yanking at his fangs.

“It’s schtuck!  Get it out!  Shhombody!  Pweeeeaaasee help!  Shhstuck!”

A dark shadow appeared in the doorway.

“That will teach you, you little green thief. Serves you right! Come here.”

Milton tottled over to his big brother.

“Open up!  Say ahhh!” ordered Felix.

Milton obeyed.  Felix yanked. Out popped the shhstuck candy corn and Milton’s tooth.

“Oooops,” laughed Felix.

“Wait! Feel-wix!  My toooof?” asked Milton.

“That’s what you get for stealing MY Halloween candy!”

“What?” bellowed Milton.  “Oh no!  Shhombody! Help-p-p! Unshhstuck!  Pweeeeaaasee!”

Visit: Grammy Pags Stories for Kids on Amazon


Summertime Reading Fun! The “back” story of the Doonsey Adventures!

Doonsey 2 front coverHi Everyone, It has been so long since I’ve posted a blog that I hardly remember how to do it.  So, if I make some boofs – please forgive me!

This blog is about the backstory for my two “Doonsey” stories, book # 1 & 2.

I’m finally ready to release my newest adventure for kids, Doonsey Returns, the Great Rescue, part 2!  I have been working this book since 2015 – for 2 years!  Writing the story was easy, however, the illustrations have taken FOREVER!!  This is a beach adventure with mystery, suspense, imagination, fantasy, and realism! Quite a combination for a children story!

I’ve talked to some friends and fans.  Here are a few questions that gthey have been wondering about:

Q. So Grammy, what’s Doonsey’s back story?

A. A little orange and green wind-up toy crab, some shells, pebbles, a crab claw, and some seaweed were  the inspirations for my two Doonsey Adventure stories.


My husband and I, and our daughter and family, were vacationing at Kure Beach in North Carolina in 2013.  In one of the local stores, I found an adorable little wind-up toy Before & after Doonseycrab.  I bought him and presented him to our granddaughter, Sofie.  She immediately named him Doonsey!  For the rest of our vacation, Doonsey went everywhere with us. He was the focal point of many beach photo shoots.  He was our very own, “Where’s Waldo!”

Q. How did you come up with the “Beach Buddies?”

Beach buddies page 1During that same Kure Beach vacation, my granddaughter and I were beach combing.   We found lots of shells, colorful pebbles, some crab claws, and strands of feathery sea weed.  We added these items to our sand sculptures.  Our creations ended up having some very interesting faces and personalities!  We named them the “Beach Buddies!”

It was then that my imagination started to work.  I wondered, What would happen if these “creatures / personalitites” came to life?  What if they wriggled their way right up out of the sand?  What if they took on HUMAN characteristics?  

Beach Buddies - from my bio.pngEven though our “beach buddies” looked pretty crazy, they were cute and fun to make.  I took lots of pictures of them.  So in addition to plenty of Doonsey pictures on the beach, I now had these whacky “beach buddy” creations.  We LOVED them!!

Q. How did the loggerhead turtles enter the story?  Before our vacation ended, we took a longer walk up Kure Beach.  We were amazed to discover an area with tape marked, page 22 - CS.jpg“CAUTION!”   It was a protected space and the location of a sea turtle nest!  Oh my gosh, what luck!!  During this ONE vacation, the inspiration for TWO stories for kids emerged!  The first story: Doonsey’s Beach Adventure, the Great Rescue.  In this story, Doonsey rescues Soferton, then helps rescue her friends, the Beach Buddies.  In the second story, Doonsey Returns, the Great Rescue, Part 2, Soferton, Doonsey, and the Beach Buddies are reunited, however, they meet some NEW little beach buddies – (shhhh) – sea turtle hatchlings!!  It’s so exciting!!

Q. Is there anything similar in both stories?

A.  In both stories, kids will use their imaginations and creativity.  The “Beach Buddies” imerge, there are educational activities, AND the Beach Buddies tell their silly knock-knock jokes (Beach Buddies LOVE knock-knock jokes!)

So what pre-readers saying?

  • My 6 year old niece and I really enjoyed this story. We particularly liked the way friends helped others and the interesting facts at the end. (J. Bombeck)
  • A fun summer beach book.  This cute kidlit book is filled with real life photos, mixed with an array of adorable illustrations. Readers and parents will enjoy going over the interesting facts and activities at the back of the book. (R. Russell)
  • If you are looking for kid friendly beach activities, pack this in your bag.  “Doonsey Returns” is a story that helps us see the treasures of the beach and shows us
    creative ways of how to have fun using them. An actual photo page gives us examples. The book also introduces us to an endangered creature that calls the beach home for part of its life. Best of all there is a whole page listing facts about it and a coloring page with questions to look back in the story. Another good point is it show all of us why it is so important to dispose litter properly. (R. Kairies)
  • I received the book as a gift for my daughter (age 7). She was quite thrilled. She found the characters entertaining and the story was at a level that she was able to take the concrete information and use her imagination. Her favorite part, though, was the information regarding turtles at the end. I found the transitions from one part of the story to the next slightly stiff, however, I am an adult reader. I actually find this to be beneficial in children’s reading, as it allows them a slight pause to use their imagination and logical thinking skills. it has inspired my daughter to create many of her own stories in similar fashion all this past week. (anonymous)

I am so grateful for the reviews coming in!  Thank you pre-review readers!!  My hope is that NEW readers and lots of kids will enjoy this fun, summertime, beach book that includes creativity, imagination, and realism!

Love from Rhonda Paglia, Grammy Pags Stories for Kids

Available from Amazon & Barnes & Noble:  Doonsey Returns, the Great Rescue, Part 2

Caleb ad for Doonsey - books available

Kindle Countdown: Jan. 16-23, 2017

Hi Everyone:   This is Kindle Countdown Week, Jan. 16- 23, for Grammy’s Rocking Color Rap-a-licious Rap ~ Teaching Kids Colors!  Starting atcolor-rap-ad $0.99, Grammy’s Rockin’ the colors with a boom-shee-boom boom beat!

From readers: “Rollicking” “Fun” “Colorful” “Humorous” “Educational”

Here’s the link:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B012HOFL2S

Includes 10 extra activity and enrichment pages.



Grammy’s Rockin’ Color Rap-a-licious Rap is available for Kindle and in Soft Cover. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B012HOFL2S normas-review-color-rap


New Year’s Resolutions -Goals for 2017

Happy New Year everyone!  I wish you all a joyfilled, productive, healthy, happy 2017. Here are a few of my New Year’s goals for 2017, both personal and in my writerly life.

Several personal goals for 2017:

  • I would love to lose and keep off 5 – 7 pounds – haha – wouldn’t we all!
  • I want to try to do a 2- 4 minute plank 5 days a week – I’ve got to tone up!
  • I want to continue to enjoy every minute with my husband, kids and grandkids.  I love them so much!

And – a few of my “writing / publishing” goals for 2017.

  • cover-original-for-kidsProject #1:  I’m currently working on a story book to color for kids and adults about the life of Jesus, the Angels, and some very special Saints.  I know this book won’t be for everyone.  That’s okay. It’s definitely a niche book, most likely for my Catholic friends and audience, but again, I’m okay with that.  I love spiritual topics and the lives of the saints are facinating to me.  For Christmas this year, I created a story / coloring book like this for my grandchildren (my version of “super heroes”).  I thought something spiritual to take to church would be a little better than books about ninja turtles, you know what I mean.  I was so pleased with the outcome, that I’ve decided to expand the original book, add more saints, and set a release goal for Easter, 2017.  We’ll see if I can make this happen.  Watch for updates!
  • Project #2:  I plan to complete Doonsey’s second book – Doonsey’s Return, the Great donsey-2-coverRescue, Part 2.  Hopefully this picture book will be ready by summer 2017.  In this story, Doonsey receives a note in a bottle from his friend, Soferton.  She’s so worried.  The Beach Buddies need their help!  So once again, our little hero heads back to the beach, meets up with Soferton, and the two friends end up with not one “great” rescue, but two!




  • im-a-kindness-kid-smallerProject #3:  The Kindness Kids Project – This will be a book by kids, but for kids and adults.  Through artwork and the written word, kids will share how they are showing kindness throughout our communities and our world.  Little 5-year-old Maeli, USA, submitted the first entry.  I’m so proud of her and her way of showing kindness to others.  I hope lots of kids will enter this contest.  It’s for kids ages 4 – 17, entry deadline is June 30, 2017.  Kids and classes will receive a special “Kindness Kid” certificate from me – as long as I receive some kind of contact information.  For details, here’s the link in this blog:  The Kindness Kids Project.  I plan to share some of the entries as they come in, so you can check back at this link: Kindness Kids Project – Artwork Entries

I have a few other ideas on the back burner, but if I complete these projects this year, I will consider it a success.  Again, Happy New Year everyone!  Keep reading to your kids and grandkids!  Love Rhonda, Grammy Pags


NEW Christmas Stories for Kids & Families

Ho-Ho-HO! Lots going on in Christmas story world! Mrs. Jessica Claus has got her “girl power” going on; Santa has shorted out the “power grid” and needs help from Lovable Lobo and friends; “Thingy” is causing all kinds of havoc for the “Top of the Wardrobe Gang;”and Sofie & Meeda are hatching a special Christmas plan for the grumpy Woozler who is freezing outside!  Check out these super cool Christmas stories for kids!