My 3 Book Weekend – Reviews

I spent the past weekend resting my thumb and reading three books that I had picked up from Romance Writers of America’s National Conference.

So I had the unique privilege of visiting New York City and Santa Barbara; a magical land called Raea; and Blessings, Kansas.


I hadn’t read any of these authors before.  I have met Joan, and she’s a publishing sister of mine, so it was with interest that I sat down to spend a bit of time reading two short novellas by Joan Bird.

Wishes and Miracles by Joan Bird

Both stories are set in a small publishing company. The editors are men; the writers, women whose work changes their lives. Sam’s Gift has the delicious Lizzie shoving her manuscript under the door of an editor. Jake is transformed by this novel and must have it, so he goes to great lengths to find Lizzie and meet up with her. But with Lizzie comes Jake’s realization; that his wife, Sam, whom he lost on 9/11 when the South Tower went down, has left him the gift of his future; and that he’d darned well better take advantage of it, instead of continuing to live like a ghost. Joan’s way with witty and intelligent dialog will have you giggling in delight.

Amy’s Wish, set in Santa Barbara, is another heart-tugging, witty and intelligent novella. Eric, the editor, is in Santa Barbara only to get Amy to sign a contract for her novel. Amy is certain he doesn’t mean it. It takes them both to bare their souls, and their secrets, before he can convince her that he means everything he says, especially when he says “I love you.”

Both stories give you that warm, happy-ever-afterglow that a good romance imparts, and I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

This story had me by the first sentence.

“I craft influential cake.”

Right??? Yeah. This is a magical puzzle of three people (well, let’s go with that) that are entwined together.

Maire has no memory of her past beyond the five years she’s been in the town of Carmine. She is a baker who bakes influence into her cakes and tarts and pies. Whether it be love, or luck, or strength, or courage, she crafts her edibles with these emotions and abilities. Those who consume them receive those gifts, which is why her bakeshop is well known in her small town.

But when marauders come through Carmine, she is captured and sold…to Allemas, a strong man who then sets her to make treats for others. He whirls them from place to place, holding her captive when she is not actively baking.

When she is down in the cellar, waiting for Allemas to set her to another task, she is visited by a spirit named Fyel. The more she spends time with him, the more her memory returns…and the angrier Allemas becomes.

I have never read a novel like this before. I loved it. It was like falling into a dream, and I wished I could taste the cakes, the tarts, the petit fours. And the reveal toward the end was breathtaking. I will definitely be reading more of Charlie N. Holberg’s works.

Heart of Gold, a Blessings Novel by Beverly Jenkins

I fell in love, reading this book. I had never read any of the Blessings novels, but I didn’t feel lost at all. I loved Bernadine and her Mal, I loved the feisty 10 year old Zoey, and I absolutely adored her mama Roni Garland and her man Reggie.

Life in a small town can be very interesting, especially when you’re the one who owns it the way Bernadine Brown owns Blessings, Kansas. Add in a furious mayor’s wife in the nearby small town of Franklin, and you’ve got some mayhem tossed in.

This book immersed me in warmth and love as I read and got to know lots of people in the town, from the impossible Devon who will eventually learn not to be an ass (and Zoey will learn not to beat him up), to Bernadine and her love for most everyone.

I will, most definitely, be going back to Blessings, Kansas at the first opportunity.


It was a wonderful way to spend a weekend, refilling my writer’s well, and getting to share these books and these writers with you is another joy.

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The Cabin in the Laguna Mountains

My parents bought a cabin in the Laguna Mountains in the winter of 1965-66. It’s in the Cleveland National Forest, and you buy the cabin – but lease the land from the government. They are considered summer homes, and won’t allow you to buy with the intent to live year-round. They won’t even let you buy one if you don’t own another home.

Yesterday, July 30 2016, my father, my oldest brother, and I took the pilgrimage back to the place we were all happiest.


The windows are new. The roof is, too. The paint job looks fresh, and they put skytubes into the kitchen to open it up, as well as the sliding glass door on the right which is new. The place looks well-loved and taken care of.

The cement slab, though, was poured by my father and my brothers. You can still see our names in it.


and here


My mom’s writing.

I won’t lie…this was an emotional day. Before we saw the cabin, we went to Major’s Diner, in Pine Valley, for lunch…the best burger I’ve had in a very long time.


I remember sitting at that counter, 45+ years ago,and feeling like a “big girl” because the counter was the perfect height for littler kids.

And Dad…well, he had a quarter of his waffle. I won’t say he’s getting too thin, but…note the cardboard between the back of his watch and his wrist. (He’s an innovator.)


So, we got to the cabin. I have more photos on my big camera, but these were all taken with my phone and are more readily accessible, so.

My brother Greg parked the car, and I was itching to get outside. Dad wanted to, as well, so we helped him out. Walked up a short hill to within the steps to the slab (top photo). He was dizzy, out of breath, and couldn’t go further.

I left them there, Greg hanging onto Dad, because this hill right here was calling to me.


Up there, along the ridge line, in the summer of 1993, we scattered my brother Scott’s ashes. I was, oh…maybe six months pregnant at the time.

The next time I visited the cabin, it was in the late spring of 2007, when we scattered my mother’s ashes. At the time, I thought the next time I would be there would be to scatter my father’s ashes, but luckily that was not true.

I took many, many photos. I stuck my nose in the bark of the Jeffrey Pine trees and smelled the rich vanilla scent. I laughed at the woodpeckers and the blue jays even as I brushed my tears away. And when I hiked to the top of this hill, my feet sank into gopher tunnels that I had once been able to spot and avoid. Dirt got into my shoes. The air was muggy, and sweat rolled between my shoulder blades as I stocked up on photos and memories.

The outhouse had been taken down; there were only a few bricks left in the soil to mark where it once stood.  The big oak tree that my dad had shimmied up (about 30 feet) in the summer of 1966 to tie a rope swing on was also gone; not even a stump remained. We used to swing high and try to push off the outhouse…never quite made it…

This side of the mountains, the trees were lush, and green. The rains had done good here. The oaks and pines both looked amazing. All the ground fifty feet surrounding the cabins had been cleared, as by law. The place looked beautiful.

Going back to the car, I saw Greg helping my dad inside. He laid the seat back and closed his eyes, and a part of me hurt for him…Dad had sawn logs, gone arrowhead hunting, taken us for hikes. He cleared land and created a volleyball court. He brought a litter of puppies up in one box, and a month later had to take them home in two boxes. He strode these lands in the prime of his life…everywhere I looked, I saw that young man who, when he wasn’t working with his hands, was writing novels.


Greg Cunningham and Chet Cunningham, July 30, 2016.

I had an incredible, safe, loving childhood filled with remarkable people and this oh, so amazing place in the mountains. I am blessed.




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Three Times More Lucky Menage Box Set

It’s LIVE, it’s HERE! Check this out…

lucky Ad

My Story in this box set is called Four, Squared…

4 squared

Love, Squared by Christine Ashworth

Daniel is the only man James has ever been attracted to. After running from that attraction five years ago, James is back, only to find two women in Daniel’s bed…Daniel’s wife and her girlfriend. A night of some of the hottest sex he’s ever had has James rethinking his future…and his place in Daniel’s life.

And here’s teasers for the rest of the set!

Triad by Kim Carmichael

In a world of threesomes, Kenna Poller-Madsen and Lucas Kerr have lived together as a couple after the third of their triad died years ago. Life is good, but something is always missing. When the sexy alien Talbot Savita crash lands on their planet, they never dreamed this warrior might be the one they both need. On a tour of their planet sparks fly. However, but their love may be doomed before it begins, because their planet’s laws don’t allow interspecies to mate, and as soon as his spaceship is repaired Talbot must return home. Now they must fight for their Triad or lose him forever.


Worshiping the Goddess by Solera Winters

When her twenty-first century life becomes too trying, a marketing assistant transports back to an ancient Celtic tribe where the men have lost everything and worship her as a goddess. It’s the ultimate fantasy, but on discovering the fantasy is reality, will she be able to give up her modern life for the chance to be cherished by four hunky Celts?

Snow by Erzabet Bishop

Fairytales can bite… To look to the future, sometimes you have to unearth the secrets of the past. Snow longs to find a man of her own far away from life in her father’s castle. When he returns from war with a new bride, her carefully planned out life slips through her fingers. Her new stepmother harbors a dangerous secret and one malicious kiss sends Snow tumbling into a world she never knew existed. Can she learn to use her new talents wisely or lose it all? Darkness can hide the most sultry of nights. Gideon and his men guard the king, but even they can’t protect him from his murderous new bride. When the castle falls prey to the queen’s ire, they find themselves under the spell of the moon. Can they harness their new reality to protect the newest target of the queen’s wrath or will they be yet again victims of her unholy power play?

Threesome by Tuesday by Louisa Bacio

Going beyond friendship takes more than physical attraction. A power dynamic threatens to derail the newly formed threesome, and Tommy, Shannon and Zack struggle to find their position. When Zack feels like he’s being overlooked, he takes off for some solo soul searching. To survive the speed bumps, the three lovers need to face some fears and focus on the love.

Road to Seduction by Sascha Illyvich

Dubious circumstances throw three travelers together. During foul winter weather, the three turn to other options to keep warm, only to realize past relationships can pave the way for new love. Can they have a future together as a ménage?

Available on Amazon à — only 99 pennies!


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Book 4 in the StarTide Series is ready for your happy consumption!

Loud and earthy, comedienne Mia Martinez-Coleman never met a curse word she didn’t like, but smooth operator Randall Blue–nightclub owner and so much more–is about to prove that things can get even dirtier…and more dangerous.


Comedienne Maria Teresa Juanita Martinez-Coleman wants her big break so badly she can taste it. Nothing and no one is going to stand in her way, especially nightclub owner Randall Blue. Lately, it seems he’s been stalking her–showing up at all her gigs, never laughing but ever-present. He’s handsome, rich, and completely out of her league, so she’s clueless why he’s hanging around…unless he’s making sure the show she has scheduled at his famous Topaz Room wasn’t a booking error?

Randall Blue has found the full package in Mia. Funny, smart, curvy, sassy–and connected to an arms dealer Randall’s been tracking. No one suspects his covert objective; he has a great cover as a businessman with an eye for the ladies. The problem is, this brash, fearless woman is more than a way into El Duke’s gang, she’s The One. He he has no right claiming her, not when everything she knows about him is a lie. But to keep her out of danger, he’s got to get close, which, of course, is right where he wants to be.


Will there be more StarTide Books? I don’t know…what do you think???

Cheers and Happy Saturday!


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Ballet Again, Take 3…

How does the saying go? I wish I weighed what I did when I first thought I was fat? Well – I wish I were as in shape as the first time I thought I was out of shape. But at 25, I had no clue what being out of shape meant.


But now I do, and I am partly putting the responsibility for it on my sedentary work writing, and sedentary Day Job, and partly on menopause.

Menopause happens for a reason. Women’s bodies stop preparing for pregnancy (thank goodness!). But with that, comes a loss of hormones. Our bodies gain weight in weird and unpredictable spurts even when we’re doing everything “right” in order to protect us while we go through this transition.

When you add stress to that situation, which includes everything from aging parents, adult children who will not leave home, death or divorce of a spouse/parent/child/other loved one, job issues, and so on, the normally sane woman can easily find herself munching on anything she can find in the middle of the night, as well as downing a bottle of wine. Or two. Depending on the circumstances and the enablers loving family around her.

So here I am, post-total abdominal hysterectomy (August 2012), post-hormones (because they went up to $100 a month and nobody got time for that), post-emotional growth spurt last year…without the benefit of a gym membership – and here I am, once again. Staring at myself in the mirror, and thinking, oh hell. I am so out of shape. Not only that, but my balance is beginning to erode again. Sigh.

Is there vanity involved? Hell yes. I have great feet and great legs, and I’d like to look respectable in clothes that will show them off. Which means I need to get back into the gym and start walking on the treadmill (did you know that CARDIO exercise can help keep you mentally sharp? Go here to check it out). I would also like to be able to take walks with my husband without getting dizzy and having to hang onto him.

It also means that I need to get back to ballet. Simple barre exercises, stretching, balancing exercises, eventually the joy of moving a bit across a wooden floor, even if it’s in socks and yoga pants and a big, enveloping t-shirt.

My first day back to the Barre was on Friday evening. I was fine until I attempted grand plies. I have decided that at my age, I no longer need to do grand plies. I am hoping my right quadricep will forgive me soon, and we can continue this odyssey.

(And when I’m not at the gym, I’ll be doing yoga in my front room.)

So, yes. There’s vanity involved. But I also want to be healthy for as long as I possibly can. My father is 87; he has a bad shoulder and a bad ankle. His hands are twisted with arthritis, and he hurts every single day. But he’s walking, his mind is clear, and his arms are strong enough to give me hugs when I see him.

I want to be like my dad, only stronger. And without the pain. I think it’s a worthy goal.

hands at thanksgiving

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Candy Cane Popcorn


Sweet Holiday Treats

This time of year, I love making Candy Cane Popcorn. I found this recipe a couple of years ago and I could have sworn I put something up here about it, but I haven’t been able to find it, so…

If you google it, you’ll find a ton of recipes. But this is one that I like, with a few differences.

CANDY CANE POPCORN <– that’s from All Recipes. They have you keep the popcorn in a bowl after you’ve mixed the white chocolate and the peppermint in.

I like spreading it out on a cookie sheet…and I confess I add a little smattering of sea salt to it. Oh, and I cook it on the stove in oil…no air popper at my house, so there you go. And you know what? It’s still JUST as tasty.

Decadent Hot Chocolate

Another thing I love  this time of year is Decadent Hot Chocolate. I HAVE written about that here before, but I truly believe it’s a concoction worth sharing. So here’s that other post.

I had the best hot chocolate ever in February 2005. Hubby and I were in Paris for our anniversary, and we stumbled on this patisserie on the Isle de St. Louis on a chilly morning.

The scent of chocolate permeated the air. We didn’t even think of resisting its call. So, as we sipped our chocolate (to DIE for), hubby prowled around and found the recipe, hand-written, on a card by some chocolates. So he copied it.

One memorable morning, when Paris was a distant memory, he made me this Decadent Hot Chocolate, and I was pleased to remember, yet again, what a lucky girl I was to have married him.

The recipe is below…but be careful. You can tie people to your side with this hot chocolate. On no account (if you’re single) should you give out the recipe…

1 cup high quality 60% cacao chocolate (I use Ghiradelli – but regular choc chips are fine) IMG_12214 cups milk, 3 Tlb powdered baking cocoa (Again, I use Ghirardelli), 3 Tlb white sugar, 1 cup heavy whipping cream.

Put chocolate in a pan, and add just enough milk from your 4 cups to float the chips a bit. Heat until chocolate is melted through, stirring the entire time. Once melted, add the rest of the milk a little at a time, keeping the heat on medium (don’t boil!). Then add the powdered cocoa, one Tlb at a time, whisking it in. Do the same with the white sugar. Once that is incorporated, slowly add the 1 cup heavy whipping cream, stirring the entire time. Continue to stir until the chocolate is hot again. Then drink and be glad you are human!

IF you wish, in the spirit of the movie Chocolat, you may add 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper to spice things up.

Now you know!



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Six Years Ago Today

When I realized what day it was, everything in me kind of jerked to a stop. Six years ago, I had surgery for an Acoustic Neuroma. 11 hours under anesthesia.

Two days after surgery.
Two days after surgery.

You can read more about it in this post here. That’s the one year anniversary post.

Here’s the 3 Year Anniversary post.

To everyone who’s ever gone through something that had such a lasting effect on you, I understand.

Me? I am so very grateful to still be here. Sending love and hugs to you all.


Need a pick-me-up? Try Christmas Star, only .99! One reader called it “A sweet as hot chocolate, modern day fairy tale…”

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In the Looking Glass of 55

Christine, in the wild.
Me at 50

I did the girl thing this morning, spritzing and moisturizing my face. As I did so, I remembered the dry and flaky skin on my mother’s face. Toward the end of her life, she was wheelchair bound by MS and didn’t get the skin regimen she used to give herself.

So, I remembered, and moisturized. And as I did, I looked at my face of 55, soon to be 56. I have bags under my eyes that have been there since birth; I have laugh lines around my eyes, also there since birth I believe, only now they show when I am not laughing. The rest of my face is smooth; maybe a forehead wrinkle or two, but nothing earth shattering. A bit of the jowl thing going, because of the weight gain, but still there’s nothing that breaks the illusion I hold that I am still in my forties, ha.

I wore makeup in my twenties; powder, eyeshadow, thick mascara. In my thirties and early forties, I went back and forth between full liquid foundation, powder and eye makeup, and just doing the eyes. When I turned fifty, it was as though I dropped the mask of makeup entirely, and was fine with it.

And to my surprise, no one cared.

March 2011, RT - 3 months after brain surgery.
March 2011, RT – 3 months after brain surgery, with Donna O’Brien – 51

I would like to figure out how to put makeup on this face; it’s not the same face as it was 30 years ago. If I treat it as theater makeup, I think it will be easier. That, after all, was the first makeup I’d learned to apply.

As I went about the rest of my early-morning, pre-breakfast, pre-work routine, the thoughts on aging and face/body image rumbled around my head. My body is definitely not the ballerina body I had; it has borne two children, run a marathon, and had two major surgeries plus a couple broken bones since then.

There is so much out there about women and body awareness/fat shaming/ageism. I find when I really think about it, that in this body of mine that is carrying probably 30 pounds more than I would like, I am more sexual and sensual, more loving, and happier than I have ever been, including back when I was 55 pounds lighter than I am now and dancing every day.

Almost as if with age (and the weight gain), my fear has lessened and my empathy haselfie smalls grown. My heart has grown, and I am more connected to people than I have ever been.

Over all, I have to say that this year of being 55 has been one of the best years of my life so far, in so many ways.

But maybe it’s time to wear mascara again.


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Losing, and Finding Again…

This has been a tempestuous year. Lots of travel for conferences and reader cons, lots of doubt about my writing, lots of internal worry and change, lots of hot flashes – oy.  I’ve done some editing work for friends, taken a lot of online classes, stood my ground, gave ground, and in general – lived.

Guarded Star4Good things have happened, and new connections have been made. GUARDED STAR came out this year with Boroughs Publishing Group, and STAR CROSSED is in final edits and will be making an appearance soon. RISING STAR StarCrossedwill, hopefully, make an appearance in early 2016.

Plus I’ll be going to TNEE in Atlanta in April, RWA National Conference in July, and the Emerald Coast conference in October. These will be, most likely, my only “public” appearances this coming year.


The Caine Brothers series, my paranormal romances, have been picked up by Wolfpack Publishing. I’m writing a prequel, the two (and a half) books that have already come out will be published again, and the third book (Justin’s story) will be out as well, all starting in January 2016. I have been told there are at least two more stories in this world, and maybe more, so hopefully I can get them out next year. We will see.

As well, there’s another line of books (contemporary) that I’m going to be working on, so…busy!


I’m writing this on Thanksgiving night. For years, we traveled to my parents’ house and I cooked (or they came up to us and…I cooked); or we traveled to Arizona and Tom’s family…and I cooked, ha. But…a few years ago, I handed the mantle of Thanksgiving Queen to my nephew’s lovely wife (something about – oh, brain surgery comes to mind), and they have been hosting ever since.

I won’t lie – 150+ miles, one way, is a long way to go for a turkey dinner. But a turkey dinner where my brother can sweep me up in a hug? A dinner where I get to sit on a couch for an hour or so, holding my dad’s hand, and talking possible TV series ideas with him? A dinner where I can give my great-niece the book I had promised to give her LAST Thanksgiving, but had neglected to send to her? (Her comment when I handed it to her? “At LAST.” lol…)

In between conversations, we watched two teams sportsing. One team was in some sort of white outfit, while the other team was in electric blue…and they were still sportsing, even after dinner. The electric blue team ended up sportsing better than the white team, and won…. please understand, that out of the ten people at this dinner, only three of us were female. None of my clan is overly sportsy, except for soccer and basketball.

But my favorite memory of the night? Holding my dad’s hand, and feeling the veins there, and knowing that in a few short years, my hand will look much the same.

hands at thanksgiving

Life happens, people. We lose our way, and find it again, and if we are very lucky, we have family and friends that stand with us along every step of that meandering path we’re all on.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, my lovelies.


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Three Different Needs – One Blog Post

Everyone Needs a Helping Hand at Times…

There are three friends of mine – well, one is a close friend I’ve had for over twenty years, one is a professional colleague who has become a close friend, and the third is a lovely young woman who has become a new friend.  Anyway, as I was saying…

Three friends. Three different needs. The one missing ingredient for all three? Money. Now, the way I see it is, if everyone just donated the price of a cup of their fancy coffee, these folks will be on their way to getting done what needs to get done.

So, let me tell you a few stories…and read all the way to the end. Because I have a deal for you.

Christina and Justin

Meet Christina Munson and her husband, Justin.  I met Christina recently through FaceBook, and our common love of the written word. Here’s what Christina has to say.

“When I first met my husband Justin he weighed a healthy 200lbs. Now his teeth are in very bad condition and need to be removed and replaced with dentures. He fights to maintain a a healthy weight.  His health has also declined because he cant eat like he should. He is in constant pain, and I fear that if we don’t take care of this soon he won’t live long enough to watch our son grow up.”

They are close to their goal, but they’ve been doing this GoFundMe campaign for six months. Won’t you please consider donating? Even the price of a cup of coffee would help.

Justin and his son...Justin needs dental surgery and full dentures.
Justin and his son…Justin needs dental surgery and full dentures.



Click HERE for Justin and Christina’s GOFUNDME Campaign.








A professional colleague (we are both in Lucky Stars Paranormal Box Set) who has become a close friend,  Sascha Illyvich is known as the Bad Boy of Romance. He’s had over 50 short stories, novellas and novels published in the last fifteen years.  Here’s what he has to say…

“I’m a published romance author in transition and currently crashing with friends in

Sascha just wants a place to call home.
Sascha just wants a place to call home.

Tennessee.  I have managed to save most of what I need to move back to Atlanta, but the next few months will be difficult.

“I’m legally blind, have a bad heart and because I’ve been floating around the country, access to my medicine and regular health care has been sketchy. Once I move back to Atlanta, I’ll remedy that.

“Work is steady but with money going out to sustain healthy eating and acquire my heart medicine, it’s going to be harder to save that last bit which would give me one full year’s rent in a safe, MARTA friendly neighborhood in the Atlanta area. Your help now will allow me to make that move, not only into a new space, but also a new stage in my career.”

Click HERE for Sascha’s GoFundMe campaign.


Next up is my dear friend of close to 30 years (!!), and an amazing costumer, Jeffrey Schoenberg and AJS Costumes. Here is what he has to say.

AJS Costume Shop
AJS Costume Shop – Jeffrey’s company is at risk.

“After more than 20 years as a free-lance costume designer, I established AJS Costumes in 2002. In 2006, I purchased Renaissance Dancewear and moved both businesses into our present location in Burbank.  AJS Costumes has been proud to be a part of the Los Angeles theater community, offering creative resources, extensive stock, and diversity in design.

Today I find myself, my livelihood, and the future of my company impacted and at serious risk.  That is why I am reaching out to friends, supporters, and clients of AJS Costumes for help with this GoFundMe campaign.”

Click HERE for Jeffrey’s GoFundMe campaign.

So, Here’s the Deal…

There are people all over the world who need help. Financial help, physical help, emotional help. These are three people who are dear to me, and who I have given to. If you can give, that would be fantastic, I’m not going to lie. If you can’t give, however, and not everyone can, would you please pass this message on? You just never know…you might allow a father to see his son grow up. Allow a writer to finally have a place to call home. And allow a business to thrive.

If you do donate, come back and let me know which one you donated to, and you will be put into a drawing to win a $25 gift card to Amazon. And yeah, I’m going on the honor system here. I’ll do the drawing on September 30th, 2015 so be sure to check back. Oh, and leave your email address, too, so I can notify you if you win.

UPDATE: Okay – some of you haven’t been able to leave a comment, and I’m not sure why. If you leave a message on this post on my Facebook Page, you will also be counted in for the drawing. Or maybe I’ll do two separate drawings. Not sure yet. But thank you – and keep sharing.


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