Announcing a Contest to Win an Authentic Hand-Crafted Cameo from Venice

Eredi Jovon Web siteToday I am honored to introduce you to a true Italian artisan from Venice.  Marco Jovon has been designing and creating cameos since 1998. He continues the tradition started by his grandfather, Luciano Jovon, who began handcrafting cameos in Venice over eighty years ago. Luciano’s son Bruno followed in his father’s footsteps and expanded their jewelry-making to include corals. These made-by-hand jewelry items have been sold in the same shop, Eredi Jovon, on the famed Rialto Bridge, since 1934. As Marco says, “since three generations we make this and we are proud to tell that we make it well!”

To celebrate Mother’s Day, Marco has decided to offer a beautiful one-of-a-kind cameo as a prize to the winner of a our drawing.

This stunning Maternity, mother and child Brooch and pendant together, first quality blu agate cameo, sterling silver set in the Venetian  style representing mother with a child. Valued at  €125 this beautiful cameo can be yours by entering this contest. Photo  by Marco Jovon


What is a cameo?
“A cameo is a piece of art, is a part of Italian history, something for the life, something that you can use but almost something that pointed out your taste for elegance and grace.”Not all cameos are alike. Some are not even authentic and instead are fake. Click here to learn how to spot the differences.


Shell   cameos must be hand crafted because the shell presents an uneven surface unsuitable for a machine-engraving.In addition to this the shell could easily break with a machine cut.

Eredi Jovon- about usThe shells which are mainly utilized for the realization of cameos are:

• Cassis Madascarensis: so called “SARDONICA”, hight appx 30 cm. ; chestnut brown on the bottom and perfectly white on the surface to be engraved.

• Cassis Rufa: so called “CORNIOLA”, in general height is appx 16 cm.,has an interior reddish layer; the exterior layer, for engraving, is pale-flesh-colored

• Other shell: Tigrina shell (Cypraea tigris); Red shell (Cornuta cassis); corallina shell (Strombus Gigas) Mother of pearl (Pinctada Margaritifera)
Shells from the Cassis Family are particularly adapt for engraving: in fact, the two layers of of color, clearly distinct from one another, allow the relief figure to stand out in the best way.


One of the most unique aspects to Eredi Jovon is Marco’s “portrait cameos customized.” Marco can create a custom portrait cameo  made directly from your photos or digital files.

Stay up-to-date with Marco by subscribing to his newsletter.
Click here to subscribe.


AND NOW FOR THE CONTEST! Here are the rules:

1- Click here and like Eredi Jovon Facebook Page

2- If you are not doing so already, follow my blog, by simply clicking on the “Sign Me Up” button in the upper right-hand corner of this blog page.

3- Click here and follow Margie on Twitter

4- Click here and follow Eredi Jovon on Twitter

5- Re-tweet this post by adding the hash-tag #2015venicecameocontest

6-Share this post on Facebook with the hash-tag #2015venicecameocontest

Once you have executed the previous steps, leave a comment below to let me know you have entered the contest. Leave your  email address so we can contact you if you win.

The competition is open to everyone, worldwide. Prizes will either be sent from Italy to a valid address or delivered by me after I return from Italy in June.

Entry to the competition is restricted to one entry per person please. Multiple entries will be disqualified. Automated entries, bulk entries or third party entries will be disqualified!

The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries, among all the people who have correctly completed all the indicated steps and left a comment (we will use this site

The  decision of the judges is final.

The competition. is open from today Monday 11th April 20 until Monday May 4th , 9am Italian time, or 3pm US DST

 Click  here for the Random Number Generator

Posted in Art, Made in Italy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Countdown to Italy

Of course it’s no surprise to anyone who knows me or is a follower of this blog, that I am always looking for opportunities to return to Italy. The time is fast approaching when I will be leaving for Bella Italia, and I am psyched about it.

I am not traveling solo this time; instead, my very good friend Patty is my traveling companion, and this is her first trip to Italy! I am changing it up a bit and the first stop is Venice, followed by a cruise to the Greek Isles, and then back to Italia. More on that later. For now, enjoy a few photos from previous trips to La Serenissima.

Gondolas in Venice - Photo by Margie Miklas

Gondolas in Venice

Venice, Italy ~ photo by Margie Miklas

Venice, Italy

Venice gondolier taking a smoke break

Venice gondolier taking a smoke break

Feeding pigeons in St Mark's Square - Venice

Feeding pigeons in St Mark’s Square



I’d love to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, Photography, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Top 5 Free Things to do in Milan

Milan duomo Photo by Margie MiklasPlease welcome Vicky Petel as a guest blogger today.

Being one of the world’s most popular fashion and design capitals, it might be a little bit challenging to find free, or even cheap things to do in Milan. But if you’ll get a bit creative, you’ll realize there’s quite a lot to do in this great city without spending a dime.
So what is there to do in Milan for free, beside window-shopping or wandering around in its stunning streets? Here’s my suggestion:

1. Sforza Castle
This old 15th century castle is now a house to several of Milan’s museums and art galleries. While the castle ground is open and free, some of the museums charge admission.
So here’s a little tip from me – every Tuesday from 2:30-5:00PM and Wednesday to Friday from 4:30-5:00 you can enter for free and get a taste of the Museum of Ancient Art, the Sforza Castle Pinacoteca art gallery, the Egyptian Museum; the Archaeological Museum and more.
For the complete list, click here:

2. Museum of Natural History
Milan’s Museo Civico di Storia Naturale is one of the oldest public institutions in the city, and as you might have guessed, features dinosaur bones and animal figures.
The explanations are only in Italian, but most of the exhibition is self-explained.
Free admission every Tuesday from 14:00 and every day from 16:30.


3. Navigli – Porta Ticinese
If you are into nightlife, this is an area worth a visit. The heart of Milan’s nightlife today, was once an important place for trade and commerce.
During the day the area is very relaxed, with a mix of traditional and modern vibes at the same time.
Every Saturday there’s a flea market along the canals and if you are into antiques, you should pay a visit to the vintage market, which takes place on the last Sunday of every month.

Colonne di San Lorenzo
4. Colonne di San Lorenzo
Want to take a break from the fashionista Milan? Then this popular and lively place is the perfect spot for you. Surrounded by the church of San Lorenzo, these columns, which date back to the 2nd century, are an Oasis in the middle of Milan for people who are looking for cheap drinks and good conversations.
And at night people would take out their guitars and play music which, if you’re lucky, might turn into an open party.

5. Carla Sozzani Gallery
Last but not least, a great place worth visiting both the photo exhibitions, which most of them are free, but also for the interesting book store which offers a wide collection of art, fashion, design and more of the things that give you a taste of Milan.
So whether you are a photography fan or just want to relax and have a coffee in a beautiful courtyard with a great contrast between the old and modern Milan, the Carla Sozzani Gallery is one stop you want to make.

Bonus: Another great way to save
So you were able to save quite a lot, but regardless, at the end of your trip you’ll be left with coins and bills that are probably useless back home (unless you live in EU countries). Most of us will put this foreign change in a money-jar and most likely forget about it.

TravelersBox logoA new service at Milan’s Malpensa and Linate airports is offering a solution for just that – getting rid of leftover change before you get back home, by depositing it directly into one of your online accounts, like PayPal, Skype, iTunes and more.

Travelersbox in Milan MalpensaIt’s worth to check out. A new service at Milan’s Malpensa and Linate airports is offering a solution for just that – getting rid of leftover change before you get back home, by depositing it directly into one of your online accounts, like PayPal, Skype, iTunes and more.
It’s worth to check out.

About TravelersBox
TravelersBox is an innovative solution for leftover foreign change at airports around the world. We offer an easy and fun way to deposit leftover coins and bills directly into your PayPal account, get Skype credit or choose from many gift cards, just before your go back home.

— Vicky Petel

Posted in Italy Travel, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Today’s Traditions of Italian-Americans

When our ancestors left Italy in search of opportunity, and a better life, they brought with them their Italian traditions. Today Italian-Americans respect and honor their heritage by maintaining customs learned from their parents and grandparents. Three of these well-known traditions include: the naming of children, Christmas Eve celebrations, and wedding cookie tables.

Photo by Margie MiklasNaming of children
In Italy, there is a very specific tradition of the way children are named, dating back to the sixteenth century. It continues today, especially in the southern regions of Italy, and many Italian-Americans also carry on the custom.

The first son is given the father’s father’s name. The second son is given the mother’s father’s name. The first daughter is given the father’s mother’s name. The second daughter is given the mother’s mother’s name. Other children are often given the names of their parents, or unmarried aunts and uncles.

Photo by Margie Miklas Shrine in ItalyNot everyone chooses to follow this naming pattern. For those who do not, patron saints’ names are often used. Choices become either the patron saint of the town, or the patron saint whose feast day falls near the expected birth date of the child.This is how my family chose our names. My birthday is at the end of  September, and since St Margaret’s feast day is close enough, October 17, my parents chose Margaret as my name.

Photo by Margie MiklasAnother variation of the naming process occurs when the first born child is a girl, and some parents wish to show respect by naming her after the paternal grandfather. She would be given some variation of his name, such as Giuseppa for Giuseppe or Filippa for Filippo.

One other departure from tradition  occurs when the first born or second born child either died, or was not expected to survive. The name would be given to the next child born, which can become confusing for those doing genealogy research.

Christmas Eve celebrations
The Christmas Eve dinner has traditionally been celebrated with various fish dishes, usually seven but in some instances, up to 13. These could include baccala, clams, whitefish, eel, shrimp, mussels and calamari. Christmas Eve is the vigil of the feast, Christmas, so typically meat is avoided.

Fish Photo by Margie MiklasAlthough this custom originated in southern Italy, not all areas adhere to this tradition. Angela Savoca, my Sicilian friend, stated that her family has never celebrated Christmas Eve dinner with the traditional seven fishes.

Angela Savoca cooking Photo by Margie MiklasAngela was born and raised in Cesaro,  Sicily, an inland mountainous area, the same village where my grandparents were born.

Photo by Margie MiklasAngela clarified that the mountainous inland regions do not have any fresh seafood, as do like the coastal towns and cities, where this tradition is more frequently practiced. Many Italian-Americans today prepare the vigil meal the same way their ancestors did, depending on which region of Italy they claimed as their home.  So now you know why my family never practiced that tradition.

Wedding cookie tables
Food being paramount to any Italian celebration, the traditional wedding feast is the epitome of endless amounts and varieties of food, particularly the cookie table. Most other American cultures are content with the traditional wedding cake, but when you attend a traditional Italian wedding, you know that you are going to be treated to much more.

In addition to the wedding cake, there is a long table filled with plates, piled high with home-made Italian cookies. For weeks prior to a wedding, the bride’s aunts, grandmothers, and cousins get together, and bake thousands of cookies, and freeze them, to be served later, at the wedding. Usually you will find pignoli cookies, S-shaped cookies, traditional wedding balls, biscotti, pizzelles, fig cookies, and all varieties of almond flavored cookies.

Sicilian Cannoli

In some areas, there is a tradition of a cookie dance, where the bride and groom dance, leading the guests to the cookie table, where they help themselves to cookies. There are also stories of cookie cakes, where a cake has been fashioned by layering cookies higher and higher to resemble a wedding cake. Pastel colored almonds are used with icing in between the cookies to hold them together. When a friend’s son got married several years ago in Texas, he wanted a cannoli cake. The family hand carried the shells and the filling on the plane from New Jersey, and constructed the cake for the wedding.

Italian-Americans are proud of their traditions, which revolve around the values most meaningful to them, God, family, and food.

What traditions does your Italian family practice? I’d love to hear them. Please share your memories and leave a comment.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle | Tagged , , | 23 Comments

Life in Italy – Along the Amalfi Coast Road in Positano

Life in Italy encompasses so many aspects.

I am intrigued by the simple lifestyle of  some of the local people. This man is making a broom by hand along the Amalfi Coast road near Positano, while he sits on a makeshift chair.

Italian man making a broom by hand in Positano Photo by Margie MiklasI wonder how many brooms he has made in his life.  And how far did he have to walk to get home?

What do you think?

I enjoy you feedback. Please leave a comment.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Guest Blog Post by Author Taylor Evan Fulks

Today I am proud and honored to feature Taylor Evan Fulks, an amazing author who has become an even better friend. Congratulations on your success as an award-winning author, Taylor, and Happy 2nd Anniversary on your blog!

Giveaway imageThis is it!

My 2nd Anniversary Blog GiveAway!

Yeah…I know! I can’t believe it! My journey is almost complete…It will officially end May 16th when I run in the #WarriorDash 5K obstacle run to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I’m happy the money is going for that worthy cause, but my reasons for running are selfish, I’m afraid. This book journey has taken me from quiet, subdued, doormat, and transformed me into a Warrior for myself and Sexually Abused Children.

So here it is, two years of social media, my new and improved website, and the revised publication and redistribution of my book, in ALL formats, including an audiobook! Who’d of thunk it! Now it’s time to Celebrate! And this time, I’m doing it right!

So, what do you have to do to be entered in this Rafflecopter Giveaway? Just leave a comment and share this post (Facebook, Twitter, etc…). Easy-peasy!

You don’t have to wax poetic. You don’t even have to say anything…you can leave an * or an emoji, or any (clean) text you want. You’ll automatically be entered in my Giveaway, which by the way, is HUGE!

First prize…A 7″ HD~8GB Kindle Fire

Second prize… A $100 Amazon Gift Card

Third prize… A $50 Amazon Gift Card

Fourth prize… A $25 Amazon Gift Card

So…Let’s do this!


ACX is where it’s at when it comes to producing a professional quality audiobook. It is another company owned by Amazon that is linked to and iTunes. I first learned about ACX and their services while in New York at the Book Expo of America, for the IRDA~Indie Readers Discovery Award in July, 2013. They had a booth right next to the Createspace Booth where I received my first award for my book.

ACX~Audiobook Creation ExchangeThey loaded me up with hoards of informational material and coupons for free audiobook downloads on I was overwhelmed by all the information they gave me, and thrilled by the coupons!

I love audiobooks! I have over three hundred in my iTunes library. They’ve come a long way over the last decade, and it’s no longer a monotone, lifeless voice reading with a case of the doldrums.

Narrators are actors, gifted souls portraying and becoming the characters in the books they read. Their skills and abilities bring a book to life! I am amazed by their talent in terms of voice, pitch, tempo, and character distinction. To hear a conversation between a male and female character, each with their own distinct and different voice, is a wonder and a pleasure to hear. They can literally take you away to another place and time…So much so, I’m afraid I was transported back to my past while listening to mine…

Em Eldridge ACX Narrator

When I left New York, award and information in tow, I really didn’t expect to ever be in a position to make MY PRISON WITHOUT BARS an audiobook. I thought it was too involved, too technically difficult, and way too pricey. I was wrong…

The process is relatively easy…

  • Go to and set up an account.
  • Fill in the metadata for your book and answer a few questions regarding your copyright, if you are the rights holder, and links to your book on Amazon. It’s much like filling out the info on your Author Central page or KDP page.
  • Fill out the Title Profile. This is where you put all the enticing attributes about your book. This should include a short synopsis of the book, where it is sold, how many reviews the book has received, any awards it has garnished, and anything else that would entice a narrator to audition for the book. This is where you want to make your book shine. All of this information, including your Twitter following, and your Facebook fan base will be placed on an open forum for all of the narrators to see before they submit for auditions.
  • You can post cover art…but you must make sure it is a square cover, with ACX specifications ( I did a blog post about the difficulty doing this…you can read it here). I have read that it’s very hard to remove cover art once it has been uploaded, so I just left this blank for the time being. When my narrator and I came to an agreement, ACX sent me a reminder to start getting my cover art ready.
  • Post links to your book…Some narrators like to take advantage of the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon, and read a few excerpts to get a feel for the story before they decide to audition.
  • Specify your needs in terms of a narrator…Female/male voice, type of accent, dialect or slang, young, mature, comedic, dramatic, etc…
  • Post your word count…ACX will automatically estimate the hours it will take to narrate your book. Mine turned out to be estimated at 15.6 finished hours. The actual time is 16.3 finished hours. This will give you an idea of what it will cost when you start looking at narrators and their *finished hour rates if you choose to forgo the royalty share and pay for your production.
  • Choose your royalty option…Royalty Share or Pay for Production. Royalty Share is a program where you and your producer/narrator come to an agreement that you want to work together, and you’ll share your book royalties 50/50. Your royalty rate is 40% with ACX, so you and your narrator split the 40% royalty, 50/50. You also share the rights to your book with ACX for a term of seven years. With Pay for Production, you both agree on a per finished hour rate (PFH) and you pay the narrator in full when the production is completed, retaining all rights and the full 40% royalty for your book (again, your cut is 40% royalty from ACX).
  • Now you are ready to upload an excerpt of your book for audition. This should be something that tests the skills and abilities of the narrator. I recommend uploading an excerpt with dialogue (preferably between different genders). This allows you to hear how well the narrator distinguishes between voices.

Emily Eldridge ACX Narrator

  • You can wait for narrators to contact you, or you can seek out and connect with narrators/producers on the ACX website via their message box. You’ll be notified on your dashboard that an audition has been submitted. Click the link and a five-minute excerpt is there for you to hear. Sometimes, you hear “the one” right from the get-go. Sometimes, you don’t. I had my book up for auditions for two weeks. After eighteen auditions, I had four potential narrators when all was said and done. The last night of auditions, Em Eldridge, the beautiful lady in all these pictures, blew me away with her dry-run audition! She was the last audition (number nineteen) and my only choice…She is my voice!

Em Eldridge ACX Narrator

*Note…Amazon and ACX are both dedicated to making this service affordable and available to all authors/rights holders. They have a Stipend Program for eligible, Royalty Share authors (this is decided by ACX algorithms i.e… reviews, sales info, potential sales, and staying power on Audible) to entice experienced, quality narrators to audition. Em has narrated thirty plus audiobooks. The stipend book program offers the narrator $150/finished hour of audio. Even though my book was a stipend book, I didn’t opt to do the royalty share program.

*What’s a finished hour? It can take anywhere from four to eight hours of work by the narrator to complete one hour of finished audio ready for upload. That’s a lot of time and effort to get a polished, professional product. Some of the newer, less experienced narrators charge between $50-$100 dollars per finished hour. The more experienced narrators charge anywhere from$200-$500 per finished hour. The elite narrators used by publishing houses and best-selling authors footing the bill, can be in the thousands of dollars per finished hour range.

  • When you find the right voice for your book, it’s time to contact the narrator and make an offer. You can do that in the ACX message center. Once you both come to an agreement, I recommend you exchange emails and communicate that way. I found that some of my messages didn’t get to Em in a timely fashion. We also exchanged phone numbers and had some one-on-one chats so I could share pertinent information (if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, no harm-no foul).

Emily Eldridge ACX Narrator

  • Now it begins…You and your narrator agree to a timetable when the first fifteen minutes of the book will be completed for your review. Listen and decide if his/her interpretation is going in the right direction. This is the time to be honest…Is it what you want? Does he/she set the tone and mood of your book? How’s the pace? Too fast, too slow, or just right? Once this part is a ‘Go,’ your narrator will give you a total-book completion date. While they are working on the audio, you’ll receive completed chapters in your project folder. You can listen and make edit notations with the timestamps at the bottom of the screen…make note of mispronunciation, dialect nuances, skips or misreads, mistakes, background noise, or other suggestions you feel should be implemented in the production. It’s your baby!
  • When the book is completed, you need to do a full listen-through of the entire book. At this point, the narrator can’t make changes until you notify them to do so on your dashboard. When it’s perfect and ready to go, click OK and your book is on its way to ACX for their fine tuning and approval. They do all the sound checks and technical work with the narrator to make it technically perfect and ready for sale. This process takes a few weeks. ACX will notify you when they upload your book on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Amazon and Audible upload quickly, while iTunes takes a few weeks.

My Prison Without Bars Amazon Audiobook Page

*Note…This is also the time when you get to listen to what the narrator has chosen as your sample audio. Give it a listen. I will tell you as a READER…THIS IS WHAT SELLS ME YOUR BOOK! If you don’t love your sample excerpt, change it! Now is the time to do that! Pull the best five minutes of your book from anywhere; use the best dialogue, the best scene, a hook that will draw a reader to your book and won’t let them go. This is imperative!

  • Now…Copy that URL, get out there, and sell that audiobook!

That’s it! Easy-peasy!

Look…When it comes to writing and publishing, I’m not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, so if I can do this, you can too! Trust me, with real life pulling everyone in a thousand different directions, it’s hard for people to find the time to SIT and read. Audiobooks allow you to stuff ear buds in, do what you need to do, all while LISTENING to a great book. It’s truly an untapped source of readers. People who listen to audiobooks (umm…that’d be people like me) are voracious readers. We are brilliant people cuz we can multi-task…heehee!

I hope you’ll take a look into ACX and audiobook production. Go to their HOME page and check things out. If you feel overwhelmed (I did) give them a call. There’s always someone there to answer your questions and help you navigate the site.

There’s no greater thrill in the publishing arena than HEARING YOUR BOOK COME TO LIFE!

I know this is a long post, but I had a lot of info I wanted to share. Thank you for helping me celebrate my 2nd Anniversary! I’m so grateful for the visit! For those of you that follow and often comment on my blog, I have no words sufficient to thank you for your friendship and support! You are the best!

Please…Don’t forget to comment and share this post to get yourself registered for the Rafflecopter giveaway! I’m hoping for a big turn out, so I will apologize in advance if I can’t respond to every comment. Just think of it as letting you get to have the last word…

Write with passion…

My Prison Without Bars Billboard



Posted in Writing | Tagged , , ,

The Italian Lifestyle – Photo of the Day

This Italian woman probably walks up and down these ancient steps at least once every day. I had the chance to speak with her and she proudly told me with a smile that she is 80 years old. Incredible!

Photo by margie Miklas Life in Italy

I’d love to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment.Grazie

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Photo, Italy Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Italians at Work – A Photo Collage

Daily Life in Italy…

I’d love your feedback. Please leave a comment. Grazie.

Posted in Italy Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Life in Italy – Photo of the Day

A day in the life of this elderly Italian woman  in Città alta of Bergamo…

Italian woman walking uphill in Bergamo Photo by Margie MiklasWhat are your thoughts? Please leave a comment. Grazie.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Daylight Saving Time

Photo by Margie MiklasYes, it’s that time of year, when most Americans set their clocks ahead one hour  and lose the hour of sleep. The result is that now it will stay light an hour later in the evening.

Not all states observe this tradition. Hawaii and Arizona are not on Daylight Saving Time. Either are the US Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico. The Navajo Nation in Arizona, however, does observe DST, which goes into effect March 8 at 2:00am. Daylight Saving Time ends the first Sunday in November, Nov. 1.

The time change isn’t observed by Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.

The UK and Europe observe DST but not until the last Sunday in March.

Check this list of countries for dates when DST begins.

In honor of losing sleep, enjoy Bob Dylan’s 1964 The Times They Are A Changin’

Posted in Italy Travel | Tagged , , | 8 Comments