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courtneyg

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Unlocking the Magic of France

If you truly believe in what lies on the other side

Do not give up because it’s locked

Sometimes the greatest opportunities are missed

Because one couldn’t find the courage to knock


Travel Destination: French Riviera 


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So many cities, just a train ride away. There were so many photo opportunities at the Villa France port alone, but thanks to public transportation, we were able to discover so much more of the French Riviera’s exquisite architecture, ocean views and history. I tried hard to use my French education and although there were a few things I did understand, I’m so grateful for the kind locals who pointed us in the right direction and helped us make the most out of our time here.

Read more by Courtney here!

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Painted Skies of Montenegro

 I am a dreamer, both in darkness and in light

With eyes wide open, my own story I write

To live vivid and bold like the skies above me

Soar as profoundly as the mountains that surround me

And immerse in the beauty of nature’s endless treasures

Every day without measure


Travel Destination: Kotor, Montenegro


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IMG_6984I don’t think I’ve truthfully encountered scenery like that of Kotor, Montenegro. It was like an over sized canvas stretched across the sky and someone hand-painted every detail. We spent the entire day just exploring the city limits. Each and every inch was breathtaking and if you’re up for a climb, you’ll get quite the view from the top of Kotor’s Castle.

Read more by Courtney here!

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Two Vanilla Lattes: Part II

If you missed Part I of the story, click here to read and then comeback!

I could hear the final hours of that small Italian town winding down. I watched through the window of my hotel room as visitors retreated one by one to their homes for the night. I think a part of me was hoping I’d see him from afar and know too he was there anticipating what the morning light would bring. I lost hope once the streets grew quiet. It was a small town. Certainly, I would’ve seen him by now. Wouldn’t I? Perhaps not. Perhaps he too was lying in bed waiting only for the right time. I tried not to think about it too much as I read through the pages of my novel. My eyes were heavy by the time the last chapter came to an end, but as I lie there hearing only the sounds of the waves around me, I was unable to succumb to sleep. Too much circled in my mind as the minutes drew closer.

There was no telling what the last 10 years of his life had been like. He could’ve traveled anywhere. When we met, he was just as lost as I was. It was the accent that first drew me in. He was older and a long way from home. His worldly experience and independence captivated me. I remember throwing my head back laughing at all the stories that he told. I never wanted them to be over, but when they were, he would walk me back to the cottage where I was staying.

It was exactly 12 nights, never spending one of them apart, that he first kissed me. His blue eyes stared into mine as he leaned in. Then just as I closed my eyes his lips touched mine. My heart was bursting as I felt his fingers touch my skin. It was everything I had pictured in the nights leading up to it. I missed those lips. After all this time I yearned for them now as I did that first night. Somewhere between thinking about that first kiss and our last I had drifted off to sleep only to wake when the morning light came peeking through the window.

The time had come. I took a few heavy breaths in the mirror before I opened the door. Step by step I headed down the hill. A few stairs before I reached the end I stopped and adjusted the seams of my lavender dress. I could see the café from where I was. Our table was empty. I looked at my watch. There was only a few more minutes. I was so close. I waited until the minute hand lay right on the 12, wondering if he would be on time the way he always had been.

The minute hand passed, and our table sat empty. I was still frozen only a few stairs away. I looked around, but he was nowhere in sight. Perhaps he was waiting as I was, not to be first. I pulled myself together enough to move. I slid into my chair greeted almost immediately by the waiter. He handed me a menu, but I didn’t have to look.

“Two vanilla lattes, please.”

He nodded disappearing for a bit before setting two clear glass mugs in front of me. I took a sip from mine before glancing around. I’d know those eyes from anywhere, but they were nowhere. I checked my watch again. 15 minutes had now passed. I must’ve been a fool. Thinking that after all of this time the flame of young love still burned.

The waiter had returned twice to my table after that. I drank my latte as slow as I could, but I was down to only one last sip. The other glass sat full. I could feel the judgement cast upon me each time the waiter came to check in, but I couldn’t get myself to take that one final sip. I asked for the check, reached down to my purse and ruffled through for the last of the cash I had left. I felt the table wobble as I gathered together what I needed. Then I leaned back up and there he was. Sitting in his chair right across from me. His hair was lighter, but his eyes were still the same greyish blue.

“Hello Caroline,” he said in that same deep accent.

He had come for me and just like that the butterflies had awoken. His hand slid to my side of the table and without hesitation I grabbed on. This time I wouldn’t let go. 10 years may have passed, but I knew on day one that there was no love greater than the one that began on the beaches of Italy at this very table, surrounded by the heat of summer and two vanilla lattes.

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Two Vanilla Lattes: Part I

The say that in order to become a better writer you just have to write. Not sometimes, but all the time. In order to get better at your craft you have to practice every day. So, I decided why not use this blog as my muse? Why not bring love to life, create imaginative places and escape from reality every day for just a moment? Why not right?! So, today I am introducing a new blog series! Welcome to the first edition of the “Let love in” short story series. I’m shooting right now to do this once a month, but if I’m inspired you may get more thrown in between. I will post part 1 on Wednesday nights and finish the story out the following Sunday. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!!

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I had never felt freer than I did out on that water. The wind blowing through my hair as the docks drew closer. Soon enough I would once again find myself on the sands of that small Italian town where it all began.

It had been 10 years since the last time I had felt the waves of the Adriatic Sea splash upon my skin. Where I, a shy eighteen-year-old Manhattanite had once survived the humidity that suffocated my first summer out of high school. I was undecided. While all of my friends were preparing for fall at their respective prestigious universities, I was still trying to figure out who I was. Chasing sunsets across the Atlantic Ocean in search of the part of me I never knew.

My mother left when I was young. I think I knew even then I’d never see her again, but a part of me thought I would find the missing pieces in the place she called home. So, when I stepped off the boat for the first time all those years ago, I was always expecting to find a part of me. Instead, I lost myself in his eyes and after all of these years, though I tried, I couldn’t run. That feeling I had felt back then, splashing in the sea as he carried me, it never disappeared.

The morning that New York called me back home, I sat with him outside at our favorite café. We sipped vanilla lattes. He held my hand as tears streamed from my eyes. It was then that we had promised to chase our dreams and only look back should 10 years pass. If we had yet to find that forever love we were both to come back to that same café. We were to sit at that same table with our vanilla latte and hope that by the last drop we wouldn’t be drinking alone.

In these past 10 years failed relationships had come and gone. Some I had thought were love and others simply a hand to pass the time. No lips I had kissed had made me feel the way his did even though I tried. So, here I was stepping off onto the dock with my roller bag following behind me. I could see my hotel set atop the hill. The village was bustling with vacationers. I pushed my way through admiring all that had changed yet somehow remained the same.

The summer heat was just as I remembered it, but the sun would be setting soon. Just like it did all those years ago, a cool breeze from the sea would blow through. I had spent many nights enjoying the chill upon my neck while he walked beside me barefoot in the sand. I turned towards the beach remembering the nights we fell asleep under the midnight sky. I smiled, then began the journey up the long staircase to where I would rest my head. When morning came would he be there waiting? Would he arrive before the waiter came to take my empty glass or would I simply leave as I once did before, with tears flowing into the sea as I said my goodbyes? Only one final sunset stood between me and the reality of what was to be.

STAY TUNED FOR PART II!

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Between the Covers: Nashville Behind the Strings

With me being heavy in the editing on the 2nd draft of the sequel to Behind the Strings, I thought today’s post could be a fun tribute. If you haven’t read it yet, Behind the Strings takes place in the vibrant city of Nashville, TN and it’s country music scene. It’s a story not only about love, but forgiveness, learning to let your guard down and trusting your heart to find your way to true happiness. All of course while navigating life in the spotlight.

Today I’ll be taking you on an exciting trip around Nashville to some of the places that inspired scenes within my novel. Keep scrolling to join in on the fun and don’t forget to leave a comment when you’re done! I’d love to hear your favorite spot.

Happy Touring!

Bongo Java- Belmont Boulevard

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Celia Westbrook is a pretty darn good music blogger for the popular Nashville blog Behind the Strings. When she’s not in the office she spends a lot of her time writing at Soulful Grinds Coffee House where you’ll see autographed pictures of many of Nashville’s most famous artists. The inspiration for Soulful Grinds comes from Nashville’s oldest coffee company, Bongo Java in the Belmont Boulevard area of Nashville.

 

 

 

 

 

Winners and Losers Bars – Division St. 

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Lots of country music talent play here on their way to the top, so it’s no wonder this was my inspiration for Shotguns bar in my novel. The place where Logan used to strum his six string before he signed a major record deal and the place where Celia first meets Jesse and his band Jackson’s Soul. It also was only the beginning of a night Celia can barely remember and later finds it was filled with surprises.

 

 

 

 

12 South Area- Nashville

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Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a beer on the 12 South Taproom patio on a warm, sunny day in music city? This patio is one of the places Celia struggles with a secret she is keeping from Logan throughout the novel… I can’t wait for all you lovely newbie readers to learn what that secret is :)

 

 

 

 

I Dream of Weenie – East Nashville

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Celia and Logan come from the small town of Hamden, TN where the only place to feed late night cravings after a night out was Frank’s hot dog stand. It only made sense when they reunited after 5 years that they would reminisce over old memories by finding a similar one in Nashville. I Dream of Weenie’s was the perfect inspiration for this scene. But, while you’re munching on your beef, turkey or tofu dog, watch out for Hunter Jennings. He’s a sly one and is always ready and waiting for the next story in the good old country music world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Patterson House- Division St.

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Although it’s not on the rooftop of a hotel, I loved the idea of the mellow and intimate atmosphere The Patterson House offers and used it for the lounge scene for one of Celia’s first dates. And of course, since I love a good cocktail, who wouldn’t want to choose this place where they are all hand crafted to perfection. Celia is really gonna need one of these cocktails when her date is interrupted with a phone call from the last person that needs to be calling her in that moment.

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Find the beauty in your body

Why is it that when we look in the mirror we are quick to point out all of our flaws, but when looking at others we see their perfections. We point out what we envy. Could you imagine how different we would feel if we looked at ourselves the way we looked at others. If when we looked in the mirror, what we saw was enough. Today, we live in a world where perfection is plastered all around us. From magazines and movies to Instagram. It’s so easy to judge ourselves. To want to look a certain way.

You’ve heard it before. Life’s highlight reel. That is what social media is all about. Sometimes you’ll come across those who talk about real life challenges, but for the most part you see the best part of us all. The world can be such a negative place that sometimes it’s nice to get lost scrolling through edited photos of perfection, but we cannot get so lost that we forget, there are so many layers underneath that posted photo.

Everyone feels pain. Everyone is going through a hard time. Everyone looks in the mirror and wishes they could change something about themselves. Everyone, but what if you stopped. What if you stopped judging your body, but instead thanked it. This was a recent exercise given to me and let me tell you, it’s been extremely difficult, but it’s amazing how my outlook has changed.

What if you started too? Thanking your body for what it has done for you. For what it does for you every day. For how it continues to support you no matter how many times you’ve beat it down. What if you looked at your flaws as blessings. If every day we envied what was given to us. If we looked at our legs as muscles, strong enough to carry us throughout our daily activities. If we were grateful for our arms that are capable of getting us dressed in the morning, feeding us daily meals and driving us places. If we saw our wrinkles as “laugh lines,” a symbol of our happiness.

Here’s what I have thanked my body for so far:

  • for having enough energy to roll out of bed at 6am to take my highly energetic dog for a walk before work
  • for carrying me through my mid-day runs in the Nashville summer heat
  • for not stopping on those runs when my mind is screaming that it’s had enough
  • for being able to sit for long periods of time while I edit my novel late into the night

You put your body through a lot on a regular basis, yet it never gives up on you. So, why give up on it? Instead of focusing on what you wish your body looked like, start thanking it for all it’s been through with you. The more you begin to understand just how amazing your body is, looking in the mirror will give you less anxiety and a bit more pride.

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Turning your “what if” into “but, if…”

I went running the other day, and for me that is the time I do most of my reflecting. I reflect on the week ahead, upcoming plans and sometimes I find myself falling into the trap of reflecting about the past. I pass judgement on my life and the decisions I’ve made that has brought me where I am. I feel as if life is always a work in progress, but there are times I find myself wondering, “well, what if?” 

In particular, the acting bug has been sneaking up on me lately. For those who don’t know me too well, I’ve wanted to be an actress since I was maybe 8 years old. I’ve been able to do some pretty cool things when it comes to the film industry. I’ve spent some time on the set of Nashville, done extra work on movies and music videos and appeared in student films. I’ve never fully committed to trying to “break into” the industry because truthfully it’s scary. Leaving the comfort of what people say is a “stable” work environment for the unknown is terrifying, but still I wonder, “what if?”

What if I chose to go to college in California? At the very least, what if I was brave enought move to California after college. Where would I be now? Would I be a working actor? Would I be a regular on a national tv show? Would you find me on the red carpet or gracing the big screen? What if?

Yup, those are the types of things I reflect on while running, but let me tell you something. Reflecting on the past, on all of your “what ifs” will do nothing, but drive you crazy. You cannot change the past. The choices you have made cannot be undone, so when I catch myself falling into the “what if” trap, I immediately turn it around to say “but, if.”

“What if I chose to go to California for college?” …. turns into …. “but, if I went to California for college, I never would’ve met my college bestie who has not only been my rock through the hard times, but is my travel buddy on all of our magnificent adventures.”

“What if I chose to move to California after college?” …turns into… “but, if I moved to California after college, I most likely would not have ended up living in Charlotte during the time I did to meet some of the best people ever. To create some of the most amazing memories that are near and dear to my heart.”

Yes, maybe in California, I would’ve made other memories and created a whole different kind of life, but that’s the point. It would’ve been different. The point of turning your “what ifs” into “but, ifs” is to change your negative thinking into something positive. How we feel about our life depends on how we look at it. In order to be happy with the now, we have to let go of yesterday. The thought process is pretty logical. If you put a car in reverse where do you go? Backwards. You change gears and suddenly you change direction.

By simply changing the way you look at something, you change your mindset and your brain suddenly changes from the belief that your life was missing out on something, to being fulfilled by all the wonderful things it has.

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Make Room in Your Heart

“We hold on to people longer than we should because we can’t let go of the idea of ‘what could be.’ What we fail to understand is that if they wanted the same they’d be holding on too. If they walk away, let them go. Make room in your heart for the one willing to fight just as hard as you are.” 

~Courtney Giardina~

Gosh, I look back at those times I spent chasing someone and wonder why? Why did I waste my time, energy and tears on someone who doesn’t feel I’m worth the effort? We fight so hard to hold on to what is comfortable and what is familiar to us because the unknown is scary. Yes, maybe not knowing what comes next is scary, but how terrifying is it to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t value you? Who doesn’t treat you with respect? Who doesn’t love you through the good and bad days?

If you’re reading this today and it sounds all too familiar… stop. Let go of what you think you want and make room in your heart for what you deserve. Don’t ever settle on anything in life because you’re afraid. Fear will hold you captive in all of the places you don’t belong. Once you find the courage to leap, not caring where you land, that is when you will find the right place and the right person, in the right moment and end up exactly where you are supposed to be.