Vacation is over :(

Our Italian holiday has come and gone in the blink of an eye. It seems like just yesterday I was procrastinating packing and trying to get everything ready for our departure. And now it’s over and I’m left waiting for the inevitable crash that always follows a jam-packed vacation. We saw and did so much that it’s impossible for me to include everything. Okay not impossible, but it would take a really, really long time to write about it all and I know you don’t have time for that!

So I’ve decided this blog post will be more like a Photostory, highlighting some of my favorite moments of the trip. Enjoy 🙂

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Dodge’s Palace in Venice:  Do you notice the 2 different colored columns? That is where the town crier would stand to share the town’s news and gossip!
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St. Mark’s Basilica; We did a guided tour of the Basilica and the Dodge’s Palace.
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The colorful buildings of Burano, a tiny island about 1.5 hours (by Vaporetto) from Venice
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Another shot of Burano because it’s just so pretty!
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Yum 🙂
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Murano – They produce the most beautiful glass in the world – I’m convinced!!!
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Gondola in Venice
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Ponte di Sospiri; This is the famous “Bridge of Sighs” that connects the Dodge’s Palace to the prison. The bridge got its name because the prisoners would “sigh” upon crossing over it as they caught their last glimpse of Venice before entering the prison.
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Water taxis everywhere! No cars or paved streets in Venice!
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Pathway to our apartment
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Positano is known as the “Vertical City” (I didn’t know this before I got there!) because it is literally built into the side of the mountain. Everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING!) is either up a massive amount of stairs or uphill!
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There are orange and lemon trees everywhere along the Amalfi coast! One of their staples is Limocello (an Italian licqueur – it’s way too strong for me!) but we had fresh orange juice every morning 🙂
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We sampled a variety of cheeses from this café and had a glass of wine. Highly recommend 🙂
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I ❤ this pic…Sunset over Positano
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La Collina, Positano: The best gelato I’ve ever had
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Dinner Day 1: Caprese Salad
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Dinner Day 2: Homenade Gnochhi al pomodoro
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Positano at night
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Pompeii – We had a little over 2.5 hours to tour Pompeii. We decided to forgo a guided tour and purchase audio guides (it’s way cheaper!) Big mistake! Pompeii is HUGE and very difficult to navigate. Half of the time we didn’t know where we were or what we were looking at! Nevertheless it was really breathtaking to see, especially with Mt. Vesuvius in the background. One of the coolest (or eeriest) things are the plaster molds of victims created by the archeologists upon excavation of the site.
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Statue in Pompeii
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Ruins of the Roman Baths at Pompeii – The Romans had to have been the cleanest people ever because the baths were so complex and huge!
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Pizza that I devoured after touring the ruins
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The Vatican – Catholic or not the Vatican is a definite must see! The attention to detail, the paintings, the sculptures are incredible! We did a guided tour of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Our tour guide was awesome and I’ve developed a slight obsession in learning about Michelangelo and Rafael.
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St. Peter’s Basilica
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Amalfi Coast
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Sorrento
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Ravello
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Vineyard Tenuta San Francesco – this grape vine is more than 500 years old and is one of the oldest in the region surviving a diseased bug (Filoxera) that was brought back to Europe from the New World.
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It doesn’t look like much but this was one of the BEST things that I ate in Italy. Twice baked bread with olive oil, fresh mozzarella, and homemade ricotta (made that very morning!) I didn’t want it to end and Mr. M wouldn’t share any of his with me 🙂
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When in Rome…you eat gelato! Lots of it 🙂
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Fontana di Trevi – I really wanted to see this fountain so that I could make a wish! Mr. M and I each tossed a coin into the fountain over our shoulders, just like legend says to 🙂  I read online that city officials collect more than 3,000€ a day from the fountain!
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The Pantheon – Amazing! Another must see! What’s so interesting is how Italians “recycled” Pagan Roman temples/buildings and converted them to Christian places of worship by placing crucifixes and holy statues in them. They did this all over the city, even in the Colosseum!
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Great pic of the oculus in the Pantheon – it never closes, so if it’s raining outside, it’s raining inside the Pantheon
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The Palatine (Ruins of ancient Rome)
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The Colosseum was by far my favorite place to tour. It was amazing! I have to admit that my knowledge was very limited about the use of the Colosseum before this trip. I knew the gladiators fought here but didn’t know much about the process, who the gladiators were, etc. We did a special guided tour that allowed us to walk on the stage and see the underground “basement” where the workers (slaves) and animals were kept.
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Inside view of the colosseum; This massive structure made mostly of travertine (it’s like limestone) only took 8 years to complete! Very impressive considering the Vatican took over 100 years to complete 😳
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Fun fact: After Rome was converted to a Christian city the games at the colosseum were deemed “inhumane” and stopped. The Colosseum was used a quarry yard for hundreds of years. This is why almost none of the original marble sculptures and/or decorations remain.

 

As you can tell, we were on the move A LOT! And now that I’m home, I’m thinking I need a vacation from my vacation 🙂

Comment below and let me know if you’ve been to any of these (or any other cool) places around the world.

I’m off to bed!

xoxo,

CJ

 

A Tale of Many Steps…

 

Hi all! Checking in from Positano 🙂

Positano, Italy is the second stop on our ten-day travel adventure. The city is incredibly beautiful and warm for this time of year (much warmer than we anticipated—nearly 70 degrees every day!) The landscape is stunning and Mr. M and I cannot stop taking photos, but if I’m being honest, the pictures don’t do it justice. It is something you need to see for yourself and if this city isn’t considered a “Wonder of the World” it should be!

The only downfall is the city is incredibly vertical; you are literally scaling the mountain with every step you take. There are 240 steps alone to reach our villa. I’m not joking. 240. We counted.

When our host greeted us at the bottom of the mountain she politely asked if we would like to hire a porter to carry our luggage to our room (10 €/suitcase). I immediately agreed —it had been a long day of travel and I don’t relish the idea of carrying (a.k.a rolling) my suitcase on the uneven cobblestone streets, let alone up many, many steps. Mr. M hesitated (I think he was trying to be macho; either that or just plain ol’ cheap) but then he reluctantly agreed.

And thank God for that porter because I was barely able to make it up the steps with just my carry on bag! As  we neared the top, huffing and puffing, sweat sliding down my back, I got the message loud and clear: CJ, you need to get in better shape…which of course I will…after our vacation 😉

It’s been two days since we first arrived, and while those stairs still aren’t easy (let’s be honest, they never will be unless your a freakin’ Olympic athlete!) they are getting easier!

We’re off to see the ruins of Pompei and the famous Mount Vesuvius. (Side note: I compared Sean’s temper to Mt. Vesuvius in Knockout and I’m so freakin’ excited that I get to see it today! #booknerdproblems)

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone back home! Hope you’re enjoying your day and eating all of the food 🦃  🦃  🦃

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Beautiful Positano
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Spiaggia Beach
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Another view from the beach…
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Positano = The Vertical City
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Dipping my toes in the Tyrrhenian Sea
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Tyrrhenian Sea

Marvelous Murano

Hi all! I’m back with an update of our Venice adventure, day two!

We had an amazing weather day to walk about the town.  Okay maybe not great by most people’s standards but for us it was perfect 🙂  The air was cool and the skies were overcast, the temperature a mere 60 degrees—ideal for walking around and exploring the city!

We started the day by purchasing Vaporetto travel cards.  The Vaporetto is the Venetian equivalent of the metro system. At first it’s a bit tricky; there are multiple lines and many of the stops are eliminated if the docking pier is unavailable (we were kicked off four stops before our  intended departure point and were kindly told to finish our journey “by foot”). BUT it’s the cheapest way to get to the surrounding islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello.

Tip for anyone planning on visiting Venice: Purchase a Tourist Travel Card. You can buy them in increments of 24, 36, 48 hrs. etc and are far cheaper than a single use card (7 € one way!)

We planned on seeing all three islands in one day (silly tourists!) but only made it as far as Murano. It took us longer than expected to arrive to the island and when we finally got there it was  so cool that we stayed a lot longer than we anticipated.

Do you know anything about Murano glass? To be honest going in I didn’t know much about it, other than it’s a really expensive, handmade glass indigenous to the island. But today we got to see a glass blowing demonstration, learned how they add different chemicals to the glass during the blowing process to add color (it’s seriously like a chemistry lesson!),  saw several different techniques on how the molten glass is shaped, and learned how the cooling process takes a minimum of twenty-four period to avoid cracks.

There were a few factories open for tours (we went in two) and tons of shops selling every glass product imaginable. And you know what? I wanted to buy it ALL!

It’s sooooooo freaking beautiful! Vases, hand cut glasses, chandeliers, dishes, you name it, they sell it. Sadly I don’t have any pictures of the actual glasswork since the artists have a strict no photography policy in place, but I do have some pics from the island itself and will post them below 🙂

I promised myself I’d be good on this trip. No buying stuff you don’t need, I warned. You don’t use half of what you have now. But all of that went out the window the moment I stepped foot on that island! I couldn’t seem to stop myself from going in every shop. EVERY. ONE. Mr. M smiled and indulged me every time I murmured, “Do you mind if we check out this store?”

I was on a mission for the perfect lampshade. Not really a lampshade, but a hanging light figure, something like the picture (middle one!) below…

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I had it my mind (still do!) that I needed one of these light fixtures for our new house to hang over the kitchen island. “I know it’s a lot of money,” I told Mr. M, “but just think, every time we see it we’ll be reminded of our time in Venice!”

So we perused all the stores, looked at all of the beautiful lights, and then…we spotted it. It was perfect —square, outlined in black which would go perfectly with our countertops, but funky enough with it’s multi colored cube splotches. We both agreed; this is the one.

We chatted with the shop owner, made sure the light was compatible with U.S. wiring, and I even bartered, knocking 70 € off the price!  The  owner disassembled the fixture (it was two pieces). Painstakingly, carefully he packed Piece One with tissue paper and bubble wrap. On to Piece Two, same procedure: tissue paper and bubble wrap. Only this time as he set the piece onto the bubble wrap and began to turn it we heard a telltale crack. I looked to Mr. M. Je looked at me and then the shop owner, and then the words:
“Il roto.” 

It’s broken.

My heart sank as the owner carelessly unwrapped, then  tossed away my beautiful shade.

“Il roto. Sorry.” He repeated with rueful expression.

We smiled politely—accidents happen and we understood— but I was bummed! In a moment of desperation I actually considered asking the man, “Can you sell it to me anyway? I’m sure I could glue it.” But I dismissed the idea because Mr. M reminded me that it’s a lamp shade and will get hot, and really, did I want a broken, glued together lamp shade front in center in our kitchen in our new house? I don’t care my inner child whined, but I knew he had a point.

So, the moral of the story is, no lamp shade for me! But I did get a really cool glass pen (I’d post a pic but it’s all wrapped up!) that I plan to use to sign my books. If anyone wants a signed paperback let me know —I’m dying to break it in 😉

I know I’m rambling on, so I’ll finish here, but just wanted to mention the Rialto Bridge where we ended the evening. The Rialto Bridge is the most popular bridge on the main canal and probably all of Venice. It’s iconic—it’s covered, lined with shops, and a popular spot to see gondoliers. When Mr. M and I were first dating we watched a travel show on Italy. From this show is where I first heard about the legend of the Rialto Bridge. The legend is this: If you and your significant other kiss under the bridge your love will last a lifetime.

For years I though this legend was so cool (and romantic ❤️ ) and one of the reasons I always wanted to go to Venice with Mr. M. When we were planning our trip and I mentioned this legend he had no recollection of the TV show or the legend! We went there tonight (pics below) and kissed on top of the bridge… it’s not exactly the same but I figured it gotta count for something, right? 😉

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Island of Murano
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Another shot of Murano
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Beautiful glass star made of Murano glass
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Il Ponte di Rialto
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And another one 🙂
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Rialto Pier
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Restaurants along the Rialto Pier
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And because I love food pics…my dinner, Caprese Salad
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Mr. M’s dinner: Pasta Bolognese
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Mr. M’s coffee 🙂

 

 

 

Luggage, Layovers, & Lavazza

Ciao from beautiful Venice!

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After a very long day of travel Mr. M and I are finally in Venice! And what a beautiful city it is!

Our journey thus far…

Fun fact: Venice doesn’t have an international airport so it’s impossible to get a direct flight from the U.S. Now, I don’t know about you but I’m not a huge fan of flights with layovers, especially after a seven and half hour flight! But, you gotta do what you gotta do, so connection via Rome it was!

Our plane landed in Roma this morning at 9:10 a.m. (3:10 a.m. EST). Our flight to Venice departed exactly 55 minutes later, and even though I know better, even though I knew it wasn’t going to be enough time, I booked it anyway. What can I say? I like a challenge!

It was mayhem today running through the Leonardo da Vinci airport going through customs, trying to check-in for our outgoing flight (on a different airline no less) and find our terminal. The lady at Alitalia actually scolded us and told us to go “Quickly! Quickly!” because our  plane was in the final boarding stage.

We took off running through the airport (a la Home Alone) BUT we made with a few minutes to spare!  A short hour later our plane touched down in a cool, dreary Venice. We welcomed the crisp bite of the air and the misty drizzle on our skin after hours of being cooped up in a plane. A short walk to the pier and a 110 € water taxi ride later (Are you thinking what I’m thinking? 110 € for a taxi?!), we finally arrived at our flat; grimy, hungry, and exhausted, but freaking ecstatic because…well, we are in VENICE!

After a quick nap and shower we explored a bit of the city. Mr. M’s first purchase? A Lavazza cappuccino that he claims (and I quote) was “one of the best” cappuccinos he’s ever had.

Tomorrow we plan to explore the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge. I promise to tell you all more about the cool and interesting things I’m learning/seeing (like, there are masks everywhere. Seriously, everywhere! And there’s a HUGE masquerade ball on Feb. 17th that seems straight out of a fairy tale!) but I’m exhausted and nearly falling asleep as I type.

For now, I’ll leave you all with some pictures. Until tomorrow, buona notte 😴

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One of the many side alleys in Venice
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Drink up: Coke & a Spritz!
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My dinner: Four Cheese Gnocchi
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Mr. M’s Dinner: Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli
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Inside the water taxi
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Our water taxi
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Outdoor trattoria
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View of the canal where our flat is located

When it rains, it pours…

Hourglass small at top (time left), big at bottom (stuff to do).

Okay, the title is a bit dramatic…I apologize.

But don’t you find that saying to be true? It’s certainly how I’ve been feeling these last few months! And while everything that is happening in my life right now is good (mostly) I’m patiently waiting for the universe to slow the hell down so I can catch my breath!

As many of you know from my first post, Mr. M and I are heading to Italy over Thanksgiving break. (Side note: We leave in five days! FIVE! 😳) What I didn’t tell you is that we are also in the process of buying a new home. AND we close on our new house the day after we get back from Europe. I know…CRAZY!

Let me backtrack a bit…Mr. M and I have lived in our current home for the past ten years. It’s a beautiful older home that we remodeled (despite me and my husband being zero percent handy 😉 ) We have so much invested in this house (both sentimentally and financially that at times we both question: why the hell are we leaving?)

In addition to being my grandmother’s home, we have so many good memories here; this was our first home together, we brought our dog home here… I could go on! But deep in my heart I know it’s time to move on. This home was never meant to be forever; it’s small, not an ideal place to raise a family, and the neighborhood has taken a turn for the worse. But still, it’s damn hard to leave.

We’ve been *looking* to move for a while now. Seriously, for more than a year! And when I say we I mean meI fully admit: I love to look at houses – Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com— I can spend hours perusing these sites. I just can’t seem to help myself!  And when I did find a house that (I thought) had potential this is what happened…

Me: (sends Mr. M. link) What do you think about this house?

Mr. M: (click through the pics briefly) It’s okay.

Me: Just okay? What don’t you like?

Mr. M: It’s ______ (fill in the blank: dated, too much money, too big, too small, or my absolute favorite – a teardown!)

And so the story went…Rinse and Repeat

But finally (finally!) we found the perfect home for our family (budget, size, location, etc.). It just so happened to occur at the same time that we planned to be away. No big deal…I got this!

For the past weeks I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off getting the bank the info they need, coordinating with the realtor for the sale of our current house, scheduling movers, all the while trying to prepare for ten days out  of the country!

Now, I’m not complaining because hello, both these things are amazing and incredibly exciting. All I’m saying is…it’s been busy.

All this to say I’ve nothing packed for Italy…

This post pretty accurately sums up my current dilemma:

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On that note, I better sign off and get some actual packing done! If you don’t hear from me in a while you can find me in my closet, debating how many pairs of shoes to bring…

P.S. If you have any packing tips… PLEASE help!!! 😬

Welcome!

Hi all! Welcome to my first *official* blog post!

I thought I’d start by telling you a bit about myself so we can get to know each other a little better 

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My name is CJ Martín and I live in Northeast Pennsylvania.  I’m a relatively new author (my first book was published just over a year ago!) and I truly appreciate readers taking the chance on me! I read a TON and I know how much competition there is.  We all have our favorites and maybe (fingers crossed!) one day I’ll be considered one of yours

Romance is by far my favorite genre (more specifically contemporary romance/new adult) but I love varied storylines. For this reason my novels have had completely different themes.

I’ve written three books to date:


My first book, Snowbound, follows the story of Anders Vik a professional (Norwegian!) snowboarder and his relationship with innocent (read: virgin) college student Elena Espinosa.

✩ Read a FREE sample here ⇢ Snowbound Excerpt


Off Key, my second novel, is a rockstar romance because…I have a soft spot (read: LOVE) for sexy musicians. Brandon and Brynn’s chemistry will melt your kindle!

✩ Read a FREE sample here ⇢ Off Key Excerpt


Knockout, my third release, is a boxing romance with elements of revenge and secrecy. I’m a (relatively) peaceful person but I think fighters are SO hot.

✩ Read a FREE sample here ⇢ Knockout Excerpt


In addition to writing, I work full-time, as well as teach yoga, so my schedule is fairly full. That being said, if I’m kind of sporadic with my posts, you’ll know why!

I’m married. We don’t have any kids but we have a very high-energy, very misbehaved Jug (Jack Russell/Pug mix) who is more spoiled than most children. (see below)

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I was born and raised in the U.S. (I’ve lived in Pennsylvania my whole life!) but I LOVE to travel. Europe (more specifically Paris) is where my soul resides and I would move there in a heartbeat if I could!

Okay, I have to stop with the Paris pics otherwise we’ll be here all day 😉

Mr. M. and I will be traveling to Italy over Thanksgiving break and I will blog about our trip and post pics!

I look forward to getting to know each and everyone of you. Thanks for joining me on this crazy ride!

Much Love,

CJ

P.S. I know writers are held to  higher (grammatical) standards than most because well, we are writers!

However…

This is my  (one and only) disclaimer: I’m not perfect (I know, right?!) There may be typos, errors, etc. This blog is not professionally edited (my books are!) so cut me some slack if things aren’t *perfect*.  While I strive to make this blog as professional as possible, to me, blogging  is informal writing. A place where I can share my thoughts, ideas, random musings…and sometimes I’m just not all that worried if the damn comma is in the right place 🙂

Hope you’ll forgive me and continue to read anyway 😘