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courtneyg

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Citrus Salad Dressing

Moving is always a good excuse to go through your things and figure out what you really need to bring with you and what you can live without. I move a lot. Maybe it’s the wanderlust in me, I’m not sure, but with all of my moves I always downsize what I bring with me. Apparently this last move, I purged what was in my fridge too. So, when Sam and I went to be healthy and eat salad for dinner I realized I threw out the salad dressing!

Thankfully, I had just finished watching Raw. Vegan. Not Gross on Hulu and was intrigued by Laura Miller’s homemade citrus salad dressing. I ended up making it to put on our salads. It took less than 5 minutes to make and I let sit for just a little bit to soak in all the flavors before pouring it on the salad. Laura did say you could make a whole jar if you wanted to use it for the week, but since I don’t really eat that many salads (I’m working on it), I just did enough for about 3-4 servings. Below is a little video of how I put it all together and the ingredients I used!

  • 1 shallot chopped
  • Juice of 2 medium oranges
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Pour all ingredients in mason jar and shake! So easy!

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Carnival Games

Let Love In – Short Story Series

I remember the day that I first met him. I walked into math class my freshman year of high school. He sat in the front and me three seats behind. That’s probably why I failed those first few tests. My eyes were always fixated on him and never the board.

Every day I would walk in and take the long way to my seat. We barely made eye contact. Sometimes when the teacher would call on me to pass papers to the class his hand would graze mine and I’d smile. He’d smile back, but only for a second. Then I moved onto the next and soon after the bell would ring.

We didn’t hang out in the same circle of friends. After school I’d go to drama class and him to football practice. That’s how it was for all of freshman year. Then, summer came around. My friends and I were at the county fair trying our hand at those who really wins them anyway carnival games.  I had thrown a dozen balls at those milk bottles, tried to pop balloons with a dart and lost when it came to picking the lucky duck. So, I guess I had nothing to lose when it came to tossing rings on bottles.

I had thrown and missed three times before I heard that voice behind me. “Need some help?” I turned to see him. Those dark eyes looking straight into mine. That same smile I had passed in that math class just weeks before. I had waited for that moment for so long. For him to see me, but maybe I was wrong then. Maybe he already had. Maybe all those times I was trying not to look at him, he was looking at me. There was no mistake in that moment though that he was, looking right at me.

“Oh no,” I said wanting to kick myself as soon as the words came out, “I think I’ve got this.”

“You sure?” he asked. I nodded.

I thanked him and turned around trying a few more times. I failed. With only one ring left, I turned back around. He was still standing there. I reached out my hand and placed the ring in his. He stepped up, rubbed the ring in between his palms a few times before letting it go. I watched it fly high in the air only to come back down and land right around the neck of one of those bottles. My jaw dropped.

“Beginners luck,” he said reaching for the pink teddy bear that sat on the ledge of prizes.

“Here,” he said handing it to me.

With no objection, I pulled the pink teddy bear to my chest. “Thank you.”

From that day forward we were inseparable, but somewhere in between then and now we drifted. So far apart we couldn’t find our way back. Never at 16 did I think I would find myself here, staring at his picture in black and white, holding someone else’s hand with a different kind of ring. He had found his happily ever after and all I had left of him was that pink teddy bear.

I guess that’s how it works… life. You take a shot. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Sometimes you land that ring around the neck of the bottle and other times you walk away empty handed. Maybe real life isn’t so different from those carnival games.

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From London with Love

I am still trying to get back into the swing of things after 9 days exploring the United Kingdom. We started in London and once we figured out how to use the bus system we were able to get around pretty well. For 1.50 pounds a ride you could usually get around anywhere in the city. Just load up an Oyster card and go. For long distances we relied on Uber. It was a little expensive, but honestly sometimes it was just easier.

Did you know you can walk the same crosswalk in London that the Beatles did for the cover of their Abbey Road album?!? We have to do it while we were there!

Did you know you can walk the same crosswalk in London that the Beatles did for the cover of their Abbey Road album?!? We had to do it while we were there!

I loved Piccadilly Circus! That’s where we ate too many M&M’s at M&M World and had some amazing pasta. The first 2 nights we stayed right near Kensington Palace and I absolutely loved the fact that we could walk around Kensington park. We were also close enough to walk to Hyde Park, which is gorgeous in the fall!

We opted into the London Pass which allowed us to get into multiple attractions. A tour of Kensington Palace was one of them!

We opted into the London Pass which allowed us to get into multiple attractions. A tour of Kensington Palace was one of them!

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Hyde Park in the fall is dreamy

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Spent the day hopping around sightseeing. Check out the London Eye!

We saw so many amazing places after London including Cambridge, Nottingham, Liverpool and of course Tenby which will always hold a special place in my heart. The day we arrived in Tenby, Sam had reserved an amazing tour along the coast of Wales. On our last stop at Freshwater West beach, Sam proposed! It was perfect. We ended our trip in Bath before heading back to London and then home.

Exploring Carew Castle in Tenby

Exploring Carew Castle in Tenby

IMG_3056 Post proposal photo at Freshwater West Beach. This beach was used as a filming location for the final 2 Harry Potter films as well as the 2010 film Robin Hood!

Post proposal photo at Freshwater West Beach. This beach was used as a filming location for the final 2 Harry Potter films as well as the 2010 film Robin Hood!

The small town of Tenby was an absolutely dream! We hope to go back again someday when it's not raining.

The small town of Tenby was an absolutely dream! We hope to go back again someday when it’s not raining.

Now that we are back in Nashville, we are trying to make it through the holiday season first before we jump full force into wedding mode, but I have started dipping my toes into a little bit of wedding planning. I’m narrowing down a location because we’re thinking destination wedding, but of course I can’t reveal where yet!

One thing I have been looking into though is checking out online Save the Dates. I’m really loving the idea of this. No stuffing and no stamping needed! I have been working on creating a vision through Paperless Post and so far it’s been seamless. You can choose from different templates and add a little bit of your own flare with colors and fonts. What I really love is that you can import your guest list and also have your guests add in their mailing address once they’ve opened it. A great way to get all the information we need before sending out official invitations. Check out the video below of a little behind the scenes edit.

I’ll definitely be doing a post once they are complete and go out, so don’t forget to scroll down, enter your email and subscribe to the blog!

 

 

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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!!

Two Vanilla Lattes

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.