Thursday, February 28, 2013

Earthly. {Lenten photo-a-day challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.

This was a hard one for me. I can think of a lot of things that are earthly - My purse collection, a package of oreos, a box of wine, or another vice. I could have gone in the environmental direction - bottled water, a sunset, or a beautiful flower. I thought about earthly all day. I went for a walk with my family and saw these beauties. One on each side of the driveway. They replaced small trees and have two spotlights pointing on them. Awesome. I don't know what makes them earthly, but they were something I saw today that was awesome. :-)
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Sometimes people judge me from what I write on my blog and assume I have it all together. This makes the people who actually know me laugh. I don't have anything together, I just choose to write about the good stuff, simple stuff, or lessons I've learned. My house is never clean, even though we have regular Johnston family cleaning nights. I don't always eat healthy even though we meal plan. Our budget doesn't always work and I overspend. I get angry, make incredible mistakes, and run my mouth. I was reminded again a few weeks ago that perhaps it's time for a post that shares some of my flaws.
  • I haven't been to the dentist in an embarrassing number of years. 
  • I multitask all the time. Because of this quality suffers. Quality time, quality product, and quality life. 
  • I move way too fast. Sometimes I run into people coming out of the bathroom at work or going from one place to the next. My brain is going a mile a minute nearly all day. 
  • When someone is talking to me 9 times out of 10 I'm partially listening and mostly thinking about what I'm doing to say next. 
  • I'm a strong introvert and often need to force myself to be with people because I know it's good for me. 
  • I am incredibly impatient and get angry easily. 
  • I've been known to fight dirty and treat people that I love with a lot of disrespect.
  • I make other people look or feel stupid to make myself feel smarter.
  • I can't eat just one cookie. I can usually stop by 6 when I feel disgusting.
  • I'm not as good with money as I like people to think I am. Jarrod needs to hold me accountable regularly so I don't spend all our money at the fabric store.
  • I'm incredibly stubborn and will alter the facts to make myself look or sound right. 
  • I'm judgmental and unless I agree with every decision you've ever made, I've probably already judged you. 
  • There are lots of words or phrases that I pretend to understand but have to look up later. Or I don't look them up later and I just always pretend I know what is going on. Thankfully my husband isn't judgmental and helps me out with things I don't understand.
  • My hands and feet are perpetually clammy. It's awkward. I've tried a lot of things to make it better.
The biggest one doesn't fit behind a bullet point. I am incredibly prideful. I'm so prideful that when people talk about pride, I think about everyone else. Evidently the number one way to tell if you have pride issues is to assume you're the only one without them. I am incredibly prideful - I wear it as a mask. I assume that I know best and think far too small - as if there's no room for other opinions or ideas. This week at church our pastor gave us this quote:
Pride is the only disease that afflicts every person but the one who has it.
 Jarrod wrote down the quote. He won't admit it but I know it's because I have a pride problem.

The minister is me will tell you that these are all things I'm working on. Especially the pride. And the judging. But I don't tell you these things about me to tell you I'm working on them - I tell you because this is who I really am. Hopefully it's not who I will be in 5 years, but it is who I am today.

Who are you today? If you were being 100% honest, what would you say about yourself?
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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Listen. {Lenten photo-a-day challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.

My little man read books to me tonight. He likes to have control over turning the pages quickly. He's really gotten very talkative. He tells the dog to "go", makes interesting sounds, and babbles all the time. I know he knows what he's talking about, but I haven't quite figured it all out yet. Listening to him find his voice makes my heart so happy.
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Homemade Easter Basket {Pinterest Challenge}

It's time for the winter Pinterest Challenge! You can check out the other things I've made for previous challenges here. This time I'm being a little lazy - while I have made some awesome things from Pinterest (including a crib sheet - more to come!) I've been terrible about taking pictures and writing about it. So, because we're just a few short weeks from Easter, I'm going to bring back Wesley's Easter basket! It's not too late to make your very own Easter basket for this Easter!

Growing up I had an Easter basket with my name on it. It was pink, yarn, and someone made it for me. (Maybe my mom?) It was very special to me. Jarrod's family didn't have Easter baskets but I insisted that we have one for Wesley that he can use each year to collect his eggs at the Easter egg hunt and as a place for the Easter Bunny to leave his goodies on Easter morning.

Honestly, I didn't really think about his Easter basket until a few weeks ago. We discussed it while I was pregnant, but then I fell into the maternity leave time warp and completely forgot about it. Then a few weeks ago I was walking through Target and realized it's almost Easter!!

I remembered searching for an appropriate boy Easter basket with a friend of mine for her little Wesley several years ago. We had a lot of trouble finding the perfect basket that he could use year after year. Thankfully I had Pinterest at my disposal! I searched for Easter baskets and quickly found this handmade Easter basket!

While it looked time-consuming, I was up for the challenge! I searched for jelly rolls in bright colors that included more blue than pink, but couldn't find any. I ended up with a pack of scrap fabric I purchased at Wal-Mart and cut into strips 2.5"x21" or so. The whole pack was $4 - much cheaper than any of the jelly rolls that I found. And really, this time I wasn't being cheap, I was looking for blues.

Once the fabric strips were cut, I sorted them on the back of the couch by type so that they were evenly mixed up. Then I got to sewing! I followed this tutorial and sewed them in batches of 4. There was no rhyme or reason to the way I sewed them - I just randomly picked 4 different patterns and sewed them together.

Once I was done, I had a million long strips of fabric. From there, I took my cord (10 yards of relatively thick cord purchased at Hobby Lobby by the yard) and began by sewing one of the strips to the end of the cord. Then I simply wrapped the fabric around the cord.
This took a little while (AKA several naps) so if I needed to stop, I simply put a pin in the fabric and cord to hold it tight. Once I was done with the first strip, I sewed the next long strip to it and continued wrapping. Somewhat tedious, but easy and nice to see progress.

Once I was done wrapping the entire 10 yards, I sewed the very end of the fabric to the very end of the cord to hold it in place. Then the fun part...

I started swirling the cord into a spiral. Every quarter of an inch or so, I was sewing everything in place with thick thread. I didn't take a lot of pictures during this phase because it was fairly intense and a little irritating. This process was very time consuming. Really, I had no method. I tried to make the stitches as tight and small as possible so that the thread wouldn't be seen. After several long weeks, I ended up with a tight spiral bottom!
Once the bottom was done, the sides were much easier. I sewed and wrapped, sewed and wrapped, during TV shows in the evenings. After a few nights of that, it was time to move on to the handle! The basket took the whole 10 yards. There isn't any magic, I just wrapped the bottom into a spiral with the diameter I wanted the basket to have and then made the sides as high as I wanted. Whatever was left, I doubled over and that became the handle.

I finished the basket earlier this week, just in time for the Easter Bunny! Wesley will have his first egg hunt on Saturday and will be collecting eggs in this basket.

It took me about 6 weeks from start to finish to complete the basket. I took a lot of breaks and didn't work every day. It was time consuming, for sure, and not at all perfect, but I love it. I love that Wesley has his very own Easter basket that he can use each Easter from now on. I know he'll really appreciate the blood, sweat, and time that went into it... ;-)

Do you have an Easter basket? How does your family traditional celebrate Easter?
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Lift. {Lenten photo-a-day challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.


This is our crazy dog, Lucy. She jumps, runs, sings, and is generally somewhat annoying. She has never met anyone that didn't adore her and absolutely loves her family. Here she is swinging from her toy - she grabs it and Jarrod lifts her off the ground and swings her around. She's a ball of energy and really makes our family better. 
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Monday, February 25, 2013

Cover. {Lenten photo-a-day challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.
My favorite part of the day is snuggling on the couch under a soft brown blanket with Jarrod and at least 2 out of 3 animals. This nice we stretched out with some ice cream and enjoyed Castle. All covered up and safe.
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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Vision. {Lenten photo-a-day challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.

One of my favorite songs is Hosanna by Hillsong. The lyric that makes me tear up is, "I see a generation rising up to take their place." That is my vision. That is the vision God has placed on my heart. Watching a generation, assisting a generation, to take their place as leaders in the world. Walking beside and serving with a generation of young people as they bring Christ, share Christ, and know Christ in our world. This weekend I was honored to work with incredible and dedicated adults as we modeled servant leadership to a generation of students who are rising up to take their place as leaders.
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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Live. {Lenten photo-a-day challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.

Live from Glen Lake Camp, here's the Mid-Winter 2013 talent show! You can see in the picture, there is a young lady singing at the microphone. She sang Who am I? by Casting Crowns. As she struggled to start the song (completely a capella!) she called to her friend (in the red pants) to help her. Her friend got up, stood about 2 feet behind her as to not be picked up by the mic, and sang in her ear. She stayed with her friend until the song was over. She even got the crowd swaying with their arms raised. It was awesome. Talent shows at camp are super fun - a time where students who might not be the star anywhere else really get to shine. But they also share their spirit too - praise happened through the songs chosen, acts performed, and witness of such remarkable young people.
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Friday, February 22, 2013

Spirit. {Lenten photo-a-day challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.

This photo was taken at our conference camp. This is about 350 children/youth worshipping God as we opened our weekend. The spirit of God filled the room. The spirit of energy was palpable. The Holy Spirit was present and moving in the hearts and lives of all those present - adults and students. I was honored to be there with such incredible people.
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Love. {Lenten photo-a-day challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.

This is my kitchen table on Thursday nights. Nearly every Thursday night we open our home to our chosen family. We eat, share, laugh, and pray. They love my kid and my kid loves them. We are babies, couples, singles, married, unmarried, in college, seminary, and graduates. This particulate Thursday we had bacon night in celebration of Uncle Ben's birthday. We had bacon mac and cheese (if I had a recipe, I'd share it, but it was finished before I even got home from work!), bacon and blue cheese salad, some bacon/sausage meat log, margarita cake balls, and candied bacon and caramel ice cream sundaes. We bring out folding chairs so that we can all share around the same table. Wesley and Kennedy play, scream, and eventually sleep. Soon we will welcome a new baby into the mix. It's a beautiful time that I love very much.
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Portobello Spaghetti Squash Pizza {Meatless Mondays}

One of the first recipes I wanted to try for Meatless Mondays was Spaghetti Squash Portobello Pizzas. I wasn't sure Jarrod would go for it - he's not a big fan of spaghetti squash, but he likes portobellos so I thought there might be a shot.

I don't know if it was the portobellos or the pizza, but he said he was game! So last Monday, in honor of President's Day, I roasted some spaghetti squash and prepared the mushroom caps for dinner. It was a very simple process and a delicious way to use leftover spaghetti squash! 
The first step (once the spaghetti squash is cooked) is to clean the caps. It's best not to get them wet when you clean them - that can lead to soggy or slimy mushrooms. Use a dry cloth and clean the top of them. Then use a fork to remove the stem and gills. Season the mushrooms with a little salt and olive oil.
Fill the cap with cooked spaghetti squash. This was about 3/4 of a cup. Be sure that your spaghetti squash has been salted. If it hasn't, add salt now.
Top the spaghetti squash with tomato sauce. You can use as much as you like. I used about two tablespoons.
Top the whole thing with cheese. I used low-far mozzarella. It didn't melt as well as full-fat, but it was still delicious.
Bake the pizzas at 425 for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the center is hot. If you are using large portobellos or are making more than 2, you might want to pre-cook the mushrooms for a minute or two before adding the spaghetti squash.

Portobello Spaghetti Squash Pizza
via GreenLiteBites
2 portobello caps
1 to 1 1/2 cups of cooked spaghetti squash
1/2 cup spaghetti sauce (I just used jarred tomato sauce)
1/4 - 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese
salt, pepper, garlic salt, etc. to your preference
a dash of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Clean the portobello caps with a dry cloth. Use a fork to remove the stem and gills. Season with salt/garlic salt and pepper. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
I didn't do this, but next time I make this, I will roast the portobellos for a minute or two at this step. 
Spoon several heaping spoonfuls of spaghetti squash onto the portobellos. Be sure that the spaghetti squash is appropriately seasoned.

Spoon the tomato sauce on the pizzas. Top with cheese and bake at 425 for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.


What is your favorite vegetarian meal?

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Evil. {Lenten photo-a-day challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.

I believe in evil. I believe it exists in our world. I experience evil on a daily basis and I probably share more evil that I should with others. If I could have taken a picture of judgement, gossip, condemnation, impatience, or frustration, I would have. My day was literally FULL of it. All of those things are much more evil than burned toast... But my little man was hungry and I wanted to make us grilled cheese. Evidently I multitask too much to make a good grilled cheese because I burned it. We ate it anyway...

And actually, an even better picture would have been of my SCREAMING child, tears and everything, after I tried to feed him poison vegetables. He always thinks it's poison, but it's just vegetables. Evidently when you're 13 1/2 months, that's the same thing...
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Meatless Mondays

 I decided about a month ago that I wanted to eat meatless once a week for the month of February. It was a bit of a chore to convince Jarrod that this was a good idea, but eventually he came on board. The reasoning behind Meatless Mondays is simple: eat healthier, experiment with new vegetarian recipes, and save money to put towards buying more organic and healthy meats.

We've tried several new recipes, I've been forced to try new things when eating out (which I do nearly every day for work), and I feel better on Mondays. It's actually been a lot of fun.

Surprisingly, Jarrod has been pretty open to the whole concept. He has eaten meat on Mondays because meat was the only option or it was too difficult to avoid, but at least he's eliminating meat at home. Baby steps, friends.

Unfortunately the first recipe we tried I didn't take pictures. We made this delicious deep-dish polenta pizza. It was really good and both Jarrod and Wesley enjoyed it! The other recipe we've tried is this spaghetti squash portobello pizza. I'm going to share the recipe for that soon!

What are your favorite vegetarian recipes? How do you save money to purchase the best quality foods for your family?
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Wonder. {Lenten photo-a-day challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.

It was a bit of a crazy day. I struggled to think about what I could take a picture of. Honestly, I was disappointed to see that wonder was the word today when I wrote about wonder yesterday... When I think of the word wonder, I think of Wesley. The wonder that he has for the world is awesome. But since I've already shared many photos of my precious boy, I opted to share photos from my trip to Ultimate Cupcake last Thursday. I was out in that area again today, but side-stepped Ultimate Cupcake. I was pretty proud of myself, but I'm wishing I had a cupcake right now!

Yum. Cupcakes are a wonderful wonder. ;-)
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Monday, February 18, 2013

World. {Lenten photo-a-day challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.


I love watching the world through the eyes of this little man. The right picture was taken while he was people-watching at Target and the left picture was taken from our front porch right before going on a family walk. The world is so exciting for Wesley - people are interesting and everything is new. It's an awesome adventure that God has blessed us with. 
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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Settle. {Lenten photo-a-day challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.

This is my sweet Sophie cat. She's prissy, smart, and anxious. She's been in the kitty ICU for 48 hours but we got to bring her home today. Before I got her, I created a little Sophie sanctuary in the front bathroom. I put her litter box, a small water bowl, food, and a towel and blanket for her to sleep on. This picture is her getting settled on her blanket. We don't know what's wrong with her or if she'll be okay, but for now, I'm so thankful our family is back together.
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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Injustice. {Lenten photo-a-day challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.

This was the hardest word so far. I am a very justice-minded person. I want things to be fair. I am thankful for the things that aren't fair (unconditional love, grace, and abundance) but in general want justice for everyone. I see injustice in my world all the time - incredible waste, destruction, war, disease, etc. Today I wrestled with taking a picture of a 4 digit (that's before the decimal) bill from our vet. Our little Sophie cat is very sick and even after this bill is settled, she might not make it home. That's not justice, but seemed like too much of a first-world injustice. Instead I took a picture of my sweet boy sitting in a box (one of several) of books. He loves grabbing books, sorting through them, "reading" them, and tossing them. He has an over abundance of books, love, and plenty of food. He has a warm and safe place to live, access to education, and health care. It's not just that those needs are not satisfied in every 13 month old.

Jarrod and I are exploring the adoption process. I'll write more about that soon. But homeless, parentless children are heavy on my heart. I pray God sees Jarrod and I as fit parents for another baby somewhere someday who needs an abundance of books.
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Friday, February 15, 2013

See. {Lenten Photo-a-day Challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.

Today was a tough day. I'm not ready to share details yet, but I decided not to take a picture of what I was seeing, but rather how I see. It was a gamble. I took the picture and looked at it to see if it would work for the challenge. I immediately saw my heritage in my eyes. I saw my parents, sister, and my little man. Of course I added the effects so you can't see my imperfect eye shadow, brows that need work, or wrinkles. But those really make me who I am too.
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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Return {Lenten Photo-a-day Challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.

This sweet face greeted me on my way home today. He fell asleep in his carseat on the way from daycare with his daddy...They met me on the side of the road so Jarrod could change my flat tire. Nothing is better than turning towards the innocence and grace of this beautiful face. He teaches me forgiveness, striving towards perfection, and unconditional love. And seriously. Those eyelashes.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Who am I? {Lenten Photo-a-day Challenge}

I'm participating in the Rethink Church Lenten Photo-a-Day Challenge. To read more, click here.
Who am I?

You can't tell from this picture, but I'm wearing a cardigan with little sequins on it. I'm a little sparkly. I'm a little nerdy. But I'm only better because of these two boys.
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Monday, February 11, 2013

Photo Challenge {Lenten photo-a-day challenge}

If you haven't noticed, I've been in a bit of a blogging funk. I'm having trouble thinking of things interesting to write about. A few days ago I was scrolling through Instagram and saw this picture:

For those of you who don't know, I am a United Methodist and am excited about the UMC embracing technology in this way! This looks like a really interesting challenge - it will definitely be a CHALLENGE! These aren't your typical picture-a-day topics. These are deeper, different, and hopefully with stretch me as a photographer and a minister. Interested in reading more and the official word from rethink church.

I plan to post the pictures here and on instagram. (Follow @cookinwiththejohnstons!) I know that some of them will prompt me to write more - I'll be sharing that here. Don't worry - I'll still be posting recipes, crafts, and other random Johnston things over the next 40 days.

Want to see all the pictures and my thoughts in one place? Click here!

Who wants to join the challenge? Get ready to start on Wednesday! 
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Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I didn't mean to take a few days off from blogging and to be honest, if I weren't forcing myself to write today, I'd take the whole week. January was very busy. I had two out of town conferences that required me to leave my boys, stay at a hotel, and be away from home for more than 8 nights of the month. In between, I co-hosted two baby showers (one 5 hours away!), drove over 2,000 miles alone in 8 days, kick-started a new ministry at church, and had a very busy month at work. I felt like I was drowning most of the month.

I hate that feeling. I don't like being away from my family and I don't like feeling behind on my work. I spent many nights working from home because I was traveling so much for work during the day. I felt incredible guilt - guilt when I was away and guilt when I wasn't soaking up every second with my boys at home. I tried to keep up my projects at home, keep our house clean, and maintain relationships. I failed.

Balance is a constant struggle for me. Our lives all need balance...
  • We need to eat a balanced diet in order to keep our bodies healthy
  • We need to have fun, work (at something), and sleep in order to get the most out of life
  • We need to put the important things first, at least most of the time
I've struggled with this long before I became a wife...long before I became a mama. My boys make it even more important and even more challenging to find balance.

I'm in a season of life where there simply isn't balance. A very wise man suggested to me that rather than finding balance in a day or even a week, balance comes in seasons. I'm in a season that is simply busy. I'm not sleeping as much as I'd like during this season. I'm not staying in my pjs as much as I'd like. But I'm finding time with my boys and finding time for myself wherever I can because I know that's important.

I am sorry that the blog has been neglected. I promise I have some interesting recipes, crafts, and stories for you soon. But for now, I'm going to put my feet up and watch last night's Bachelor.

How do you find balance in your life? 
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Friday, February 1, 2013

Pink Out February - Introduction

You know that I believe in a world without breast cancer. I walk a lot, wear a lot of pink, and talk a lot about cancer. When I look at my sweet boy, my fire for the fight is strengthened. We NEED a world without cancer. This month I'm going to offer giveaways to everyone who makes a donation of at least $5, shares this post on social media, and helps raise awareness for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

If you're new around here, please check out or my 2012 recap. I began raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research and assistance in 2008. Since then, I've raised over $13,000 for Susan G. Komen for the Cure and walked literally thousands of miles to train for the events.

Beyond that, I've met many (many, many, many) people fighting cancer. I've lost dear friends. I've lived life without my grandmother and introduced Jarrod's grandma to her 3rd great grandboy - over 30 years since her breast cancer diagnosis. I pray for Bridget, advocate for early detection, and believe in the incredible good that Susan G. Komen for the Cure has done over the past 30 years.

In 2008 when I started this journey I walked for my grandmother who passed away before I was born. I never knew her. She was diagnosed in her 50s and never met her grandkids. I slowly met more and more and more people - a dear friend's mom, other friends, mentors, loved ones - who were fighting. My friend lost her mom, I lost my friends, we lost a mentor. I will continue fighting so we stop losing people.

I believe that Susan G. Komen for the Cure gives people a chance. Don't agree? Please check out this before arguing.

In order to continue in the fight, I'm pinking out February. We'll offer different freebies this month in return for your comments, shares, and donations. Want to join? Consider making a donation, leave a comment, and check out the rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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