Suz's love for COWS + Allan's work with LASERS = one unique blog name! Welcome to our blog filled with race recaps, pictures of our labs, and everything else we share with blogland!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Azalea Run

Last month Allan and I spent the weekend in Mobile, AL, and Navarre, FL, so I could run the Azalea Run in Mobile and so Allan could meet Aiden, our nephew born in February. I first heard about the Azalea Run from my friend Jenny who had run it as her first 10K a few years ago and immediately I knew it would be a race I would love to run. Thanks to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama I got to run the race for free!

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I'm doing my best to look awake here

Packet pickup was nice and easy and we were excited to see our favorite vendor (Sports N More) had a booth set up with lots of clothes for $9.99 and several pairs of shoes for real cheap. I turned my back to look at the clothes and when I came back with two items Allan was surrounded by boxes of shoes. Before I knew it Allan had convinced me that he had to have a pair of Asics. He also had found a couple of shirts he couldn't live without either!

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The azaleas along the course were pretty but not as pretty as NeeNee's always were

We walked around and looked at all the booths and snagged some freebies from Publix. Then we headed out to eat dinner at Cracker Barrel. I was craving one of their huge grilled chicken salads. I normally don't eat salads the night before a race and I won't be making that mistake twice! Pasta it is from here on out. You would think I would know better, right?! After a rough night for me and 10+ hours of sleep for Allan we were ready to head out by 6:30 AM.

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Beats headphones for a race, that's a first!

When we arrived we had lots of time to park, sit in the car (translated: Allan takes his first nap of the morning), and still head over to the start line with plenty of time for pictures. I lined up way in the back because I hate crowds and I knew I wouldn't be in a hurry. My plan was to take it easy and take lots of pictures and enjoy myself.

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Azalea Trail Maids

The first few miles I took lots of photos, enjoyed the scenery, and embraced the awful humidity that our state is known for. When I actually took a minute to check my time I realized I could probably PR. I knew my 10K PR was set back in December 2011 in my first 10K but I couldn't remember exactly what it was. Thank goodness for my phone and the blog because I googled my own blog to look at my races & results page.

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One of my favorite houses along the course

Once I knew the time to beat I started to push myself a little more. The entire course is pretty flat and when you make the last turn you can see the finish line from a long way off. I dodged a few 5K walkers and edged out an old man at the finish line to cross at 1:06:56. I was so excited to have a new 10K PR!

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All the streets were gorgeous and tree-lined like this one

The finishing chute was a hot mess with TONS of people clogging up the area waiting for other people to finish. I thought I would never find a bottle of water and get out of there to look for Allan and food. I texted Allan and then called a few minutes later when he hadn't responded. Ten minutes later Allan woke up and checked his phone. He's used to my half marathons when he takes two hour naps and still has time to make it to the finish to see me cross so this whole 10K mess threw off his race day nap schedule.

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I may have been a red-faced sweaty mess but I can't pass up a picture with the Chick-Fil-A cow

We found each other inside and after I snagged a Publix reusable bag I started collecting snacks. We left with a bag full of drinks and fruit which we both used up on the car rides to Navarre and then to Montgomery. I was really impressed at how much they had to offer as far as post-race snacks. They had apples, bananas, small canned sodas (Coke, Sprite, Sunkist, and Diet Coke), Chick Fil-A, sausage and grits, and beer. I've run several half marathons that didn't offer this much to eat and drink after the race.

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Beautiful old driveway entrance

Next year Allan and I will both be running this race since he asked why I didn't sign him up this year. It was a lot of fun and is fast and flat so you can't beat that! I'm going to do my best to break an hour on this course next year!

**Don't forget we are giving away a $35 Road ID gift card so if that's something you need be sure to get your entries in by Thursday at midnight!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Road ID Giveaway

After this week I think we could all use something to smile about and I don't know about you but I love giving things away that I know will help others. We have all read or written posts about runner safety and the importance of having an ID on you especially when you are running alone. I won't take the time to delve into each aspect of runner safety but I'd like to remind everyone (myself included) to be visible, be aware of your surroundings, and carry ID when you head out for a run.

I'm not the only member of our family that runs with an ID. Both Sasha and Lucky have Scout ID's that are on their collar with both our numbers, our address, and a message that reads "Please call Mom and Dad so they can come get us"! We actually do NOT have their names on there because if someone were to take Sasha or Lucky this keeps them from knowing their names which is the fastest way a stranger becomes familiar with your dog and makes the dog feel comfortable around them.





We have a $35 Road ID gift card up for grabs and it's a realllly long story but just know that I could keep it for myself or give it away and I'm choosing to share the love since I recently got a big shipment of Road ID goodies for us with another gift card I won. If you want to win the $35 Road ID gift card let me know what you'd pick if you win! You can earn extra entries for sharing on social media (blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest) if you want to increase your chances of winning. Giveaway will end at 11:59 PM on Thursday, April 25, 2013, and a winner will be announced soon after.


Do you have a Road ID?  (If you do then you should check out their new 13.1 and 26.2 shirts. I just got a 26.2 shirt and I can't wait to wear it!)
Did you know they made Scout ID's?
Does your dog have an ID tag?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston on My Mind

I, like many of you, struggled with what to write or if to write anything at all about the events that took place on Marathon Monday in Boston. After reading all of your posts today I felt I had something different to add. Immediately upon hearing the news my thoughts turned to my blogger friends that I knew were either running or spectating. Between Facebook and Twitter I was able to confirm that all of them and our local runners that had run Boston were all safe and sound.


Then my thoughts turned to Dave and I couldn't imagine how heartbroken he must feel about what happened at his beloved Boston Marathon yesterday. I met Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon race director, last year at the pasta dinner before the Tom King Classic Half in Nashville. Hearing him speak that night is something that I'll always cherish. It takes only a minute to see the love this man has for the sport of running and how much of his life he pours into this event. I'm certain that he broke tradition and for the first time in years did not run the course alone after the last finisher had crossed.


As runners we never imagine that on race day our friends and family are the ones we should worry about. They are busy worrying about us and our race and we are focused on doing something we love-running. I truly hope everyone affected by yesterday's events feels the love and prayers of the running community and that God will bring them peace, comfort, and healing in the days ahead.

"We should always set goals for ourselves rather than limits."-Dave McGillivray

Monday, April 15, 2013

Being Authentic-Part 2

I almost hate to write this second part because I hate saying bad things about a product or company but if I sit back and let everyone assume I like everything that's being misleading.  On the flip side I probably do a bad job of highlighting brands or products that I like because I don't want my posts to sound like a commercial. I assume that if you see a picture and like something I'm wearing or using then you'll ask what brand it is and/or where I got it from. I enjoy reviewing products but I do try to stick to those that I believe I'll actually like. For example, I don't run with music and we all know that so me reviewing headphones or an mp3 player would be nonsense. However, I do always carry a handheld or wear a fuel belt when I run because I won't run without my phone so reviewing something like that would be perfect for me!

This is a 5K and I'm wearing a Fuelbelt pouch for my phone and carrying my Camelbak

We will just start with Chobani and my lack of love for what blog land has crowned king of Greek yogurt. I've tried it more than once and I think it tastes awful. I much prefer the taste of Fage and have been eating that for over a year. They have the cups that have honey, peach, raspberry, etc. on the side to mix in and I've tried every flavor but prefer the honey and peach. I usually stick with 0% unless they are out of it and then I'll get the 2%.

Last year I tried the Vega smoothies and I nearly puked. When I contacted the rep to see if she wanted me to post a less than positive review or not post anything at all I never heard a response which is quite the professional way to handle that. Needless to say Vega products are NOT on my shopping list!

Yum, yum, yum!

While we are on the subject of foodie things let me admit that I rarely post pictures of food or share recipes because I don't think it's that interesting. I eat what I eat and you eat what you eat and I feel there's no need to share unless it is one of the best things I've ever eaten or the presentation is so amazing that I have to take a picture before I can eat it. Other than those two cases I don't usually care about what anyone's eating or drinking. (I hate hurting people's feelings so please don't take it personal if you love talking about food and post pictures of what you eat. I still love you and your blog and will comment if it looks like something I'd eat too but don't expect any WIAW posts from me anytime soon!)

I do always share pictures of our birthday cakes because not taking a birthday cake picture means you never had a birthday in my family

Let's move right on along to headbands. This is one of those things where I'm ready to throw in the towel. I've lost count of how many different brands I've tried but apparently I have a head not made for headbands because all the no-slip headbands (that I've tried) start slipping within the first 1/4 mile of a run. I really do wish I could find something besides Bondi Bands that I can run in because they are so wide and I like the look of a narrow headband better but so far no luck at all. Speaking of trying numerous brands of things and being disappointed leads me right into sports bras. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears (literally) has plagued my sports bra search and last fall I finally settled on Nike sports bras and using athletic tape where I normally chafe since I never could find a brand that fit right and didn't cause "issues". None of the anti-chafing products did anything to help this out so I can add all those products to the list of things I'll never buy but will always have a lifetime supply of thanks to swag bags.

Rocking my favorite Bondi Band to match Allan's beanie

On the opposite end of the spectrum of product disdain comes my shoe collection. I have 18 pairs of running shoes and I can't say anything bad about a single pair. After spending two years selling athletic shoes and taking up running in the past couple of years I have shoes from Altra, Adidas, Mizuno, Nike, Puma, Brooks, Asics, and New Balance in my closet. I wear different ones for different distances and have some reserved for races such as my Adidas Adizero-those are only for racing 5K's because they are super light. I also try to mix it up by rotating my shoes around a lot which I believe helps my feet. I don't think it's any secret that while I like all my shoes I do prefer to race half marathons in one of my 5 pairs of Mizunos. I've found that it takes little to no time for me to break these shoes in and I can run in them on the road, trail, or in the pasture on the farm and I never have any foot pain or get blisters. They have the support I need for longer runs. That leads right into my undying love for Wright Socks. I own five pairs of these and will NOT race in anything else. I gave my sweet friend Alyson a pair and I think I've converted her as well since they did great for her last long run and her first half marathon. They have never given me a blister and my feet don't look like prunes when I take them off so that's a win-win for me!

Even Ali (our niece) approves of Mizunos!

I also use my Tommie Copper calf sleeves religiously after long runs or races because I can tell a huge difference if I don't. I really believe they help my legs recover faster if I wear them after my post-race shower, sleep in them, and then take them off the next morning. Sometimes if my legs are still a little sore I may wear them that next day until bedtime but usually just the night after the race is enough. I also have a compression shirt that I've worn when my back has been a little tight and I'm anxious to see how I enjoy it after a workout at the gym. Honestly I'd own every single Tommie Copper product if I could afford it!

My calves love these things!
As far as things that I'm either learning to love or just feel so-so about the first thing that comes to mind is using gels during a race. I dislike a lot of flavors (I hate grape anything and always have since I was a child) and at first the consistency make me sick but now that I've found GU Roctane Island Nectars we are set! I love that flavor and so far my stomach hasn't had any trouble with it so things are looking up for me and gels! In the past I've used nothing but GU Chomps and I still carry those for most races but I'm starting to carry both chomps and gels now. Compression socks are another so-so item. I think they work great but I can't really say that I prefer one brand over another yet and I prefer calf sleeves because I can't stand to sleep in socks. I've won some Pro Compression socks that I've been waiting on and I'm interested to compare those to the two pairs of Zensah compression socks that I have. Allan wears compression socks under his soccer socks for every practice and game and says it's made a huge difference and kept his calves from getting tight and cramping up. One thing that I want to love but don't is Nuun. I have had a few different flavors and I don't think it's for me or perhaps I haven't found the right flavor combination. I like my blue Gatorade and I can't see myself cheating on it with anything else so I'm sorry Nuun lovers!

Just in case you are wondering: black compression socks + yellow labs = bad news bears






To tie this all back to the whole being authentic theme let me say that I find it very difficult to believe one person can love everything they review. Perhaps people are afraid to post a bad review for fear that other companies won't work with them in the future or maybe you are like me and hesitate to say anything bad about a product just because you hate to talk bad about anything. In the end I think it's best to be honest and let the chips fall where they may and I'm going to do a better job of that. Putting yourself out there reviewing products means people trust you to be honest about what you truly like and dislike about something. I'd hate to think of someone buying something I reviewed only to find that the product wasn't what they expected. It's for this reason that most of the items I buy for giveaways and our virtual races are products I have myself. Yes, there's still a chance that you may get something you don't like or it doesn't fit you how it fits me and I try to be upfront if it's something I've never used before but if I find products I like I enjoy sharing them with you guys!

Hope you've enjoyed reading about things I love, kinda like, or hate. My apologies if I don't love one of your favorite products. My feelings won't be hurt if you don't like my favorites. I'm sure I've probably left something off so if you feel like sharing about a certain product feel free to do so. You'll probably jog my memory about something else I have either tried or want to try!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Being Authentic-Part 1

Today I'm taking a break from catching up on race recaps (still have three more to go!) to write about something that has been on my mind lately.  Sometimes I find myself reading post after post that is happy-go-lucky or post after post in which the blogger claims to "love" every product they review. There comes a time where the line between being authentic and writing for an audience becomes blurred and unfortunately that's happened with several blogs I used to read.  I'm not sure why these bloggers thought all that anyone wanted to hear them say was how amazing their life is or how much they enjoy the free stuff they blog about every other day but there's nothing real there and the blogger whose voice I enjoyed hearing doesn't exist anymore or at least not on their blog.


As far as being happy all the time that's a lie. No one's life is like that. My mom is the happiest (and sweetest) person I know but even she has a rough day now and again. I know I, like many of you, keep a lot of private things off the blog but I'm throwing caution to the wind and as my STEP kids would say there's going to be "real talk" on the blog today. I hope that in opening up about some things you guys will better understand me and maybe something I talk about will relate to something going on in your life.



In the spirit of throwing it all out there let me start with saying that Allan is gone A LOT! I spend nearly half the month here by myself with the dogs. I run the house, pay the bills, work two jobs, serve on two boards, and volunteer at both the library and the hospital so while I keep busy there are many nights when I eat cereal, watch my girl shows, and go to bed at 9 without having talked to Allan all day. When he's out of town he's often not reachable via phone or e-mail and it's very hard for him to get back home in case of emergency such as when my grandmother passed away.  He couldn't make it back for the funeral. My Daddy taught me from a young age to be independent and to learn to take care of myself so I'm not sitting here helpless but I will admit that it does get lonely and when he's gone so much it's hard to feel like I am able to rely on him. (This is nothing Allan and our family and close friends haven't heard me say so don't think I'm airing anything on the blog that is news to them.) I think that's part of the reason that I love running so much because there's no one there to run those miles for you when you get tired and your legs ache. You can only rely on yourself to get you to the finish line.

On his way to his home away from home


I bring all this up to say that it's not happy all the time here and there are days that I feel so overwhelmed that I just have to take some time for myself and put my phone on silent, turn my computer off, and just get lost in a book or movie. Then I regroup, check my to do list, and start tackling everything that I have to handle around here. There are also days when the dogs are terrible and cause more trouble than should be possible from those two. Sasha really is too smart for her own good and if Allan is gone for two weeks by week two I start paying for it. She turns her water over, is unhappy whether she's inside or outside, and wants to sit out on the deck at 3:45 AM. I know she misses him but give me a break! Lucky may be precious but don't let that face fool you. He has a little excavation site in the backyard that he and I are going back on forth about. I fill it up and think I've made it to where he can't dig there again and the next day he proves me wrong and I catch him with dirty little paws.
 

We always walk sooo nice on our leash, just like this!

Today I received a subpoena to appear in court next month as a witness. A couple of years ago I was robbed at the bank where I worked and the case is just now going to trial. Just when I thought I could close that chapter of my life it's back. I was very fortunate not to have been robbed at gun point and I was able to detain the robber long enough for the police to be in place to easily apprehend her. Even though it wasn't what I would consider a violent crime that doesn't mean that I don't have nightmares about it and I would never say it's something that I take lightly. I can still see her face as though it happened yesterday and many times in my nightmares things don't play out like they did that day and I get shot or taken hostage. Hopefully next month I can put this all behind me once and for all.

The last thing I want to talk about today is not necessarily an unhappy thing but just something that I think needs to be shared in regards to children. The rest of our siblings already have children and we often get asked about when we are going to have a family of our own. Last time I checked being married means you have a family and when people ask us about starting a family it makes me feel that a family of two (plus the dogs) isn't good enough. Like I said earlier, Allan travels a lot so the responsibility of a child would fall nearly entirely on my shoulders.  Now don't take that to mean that I'm not up for the challenge because I am but I don't know that I'm ready for that challenge right now. On a very personal level I am not where I'd like to be physically to have a child. I'd like to lose 15-20 pounds and I've let strength training take a backseat in recent years so my arms and core are weak. Losing the weight and getting stronger is a priority for me this year and I'm about to start using a 1-year gym membership that I snagged off Groupon for $149. Yes, be jealous. That's $149 for an entire year and that includes using the gym and taking most of the classes offered there.

Uncle Allan loves playing with our nieces and nephews!


So there you have it. Not all sunshine and rainbows here people! Stay tuned for Part 2 where I'll share some of my favorite and not-so-favorite products and share my take on product reviews.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Biting the Bullet

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Alright I'm drinking the Kool-Aid and I've signed up for Bloglovin' so I can wean myself off Google Reader before the summer.

Now if anyone knows how to make buttons for Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram that make a nice little bar I could use help!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The 50K That Was But Wasn't

Back in September when we had our girl's weekend in Nashville I asked for advice about doing a 50K three weeks after my marathon. With a registration cost of $12 the consensus was why not?! I signed up and when race day arrived on New Year's Eve I wasn't nervous at all. I was going to do my best and with an 8-hour cutoff I figured I might be able to make it.

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Pre-race with Allan
Let me back up and explain that most of this course is on trails. You start doing a one mile loop and then you begin your 3-mile loop that you do 10 times during the race. Once you run the loop once you know what to expect and can gauge where to run faster or where to back off. You run on grass, crushed gravel, and dirt throughout the loop.

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Loop 1-should have left the jacket at the start (I take awful race pictures!)

With a very informal and quick start I was making my way to the back of the pack when the race director said go so I got to start up front with people who are crazy fast. I ran as fast as I could for the first mile and then started doing my best to stay out of the way of the fast people.

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See what I mean about starting up front-surrounded by fast men

I'm an extremely courteous runner so I would get completely off the trail to let people pass me. I didn't want to get in anyone's way and since the course consisted of multiple loops it didn't take long for the lead runners to lap me. I got passed by some people numerous times but I didn't care. For the most part everyone was really nice and I spent 15 minutes running and chatting with an older guy that had done several 50K's and was actually planning to run another one the following day.

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View from the base of the hill overlooking the golf course

The 3-mile loop had a couple small hills and one big hill that had many a runner huffing and puffing on their way to the top.  The rest of the course wound through the woods and was beautiful. They have 2 and 4 mile runs out here once a week during the summer months and I think I may have to join them this summer. Obviously I need the practice if I'm going to finish this race the next time I run it!

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The big hill
At around 4 hours I completed my 5th loop which put me at 16 miles. I knew I probably wouldn't make the 8-hour cutoff with 15 miles still left to go and my right hamstring had been hurting for the past couple of loops so I called it a day. This year I hope to make it to 20 miles if not finish the entire 50K. I'll finish an ultra one day but today just wasn't that day. I do consider it a big accomplish that I didn't fall a single time!

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One of the later loops but I look a lot better than I did on loop 1

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One of the smaller hills on the course

Have you run an ultra?
Do you run road races and trail races or just stick to one of the two?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Frostbite Half Marathon

Back in late January I knocked out another state (still don't know if I'm "racing the states" but I am keeping track) and ran the Frostbite Half Marathon in Starkville, MS. We rode school buses out to the big town of Pheba where we were dropped off to run 13.1 miles back into Starkville to the finish line at the hospital's wellness center.


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Road sign at the start
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The Old Country Store at the start
It was nice to ride the route we would be running. The only exception was the monster hill which I knew would be brutal on the way back in! Our lovely instructions page mentioned the lack of bathrooms along the course and encouraged people to carry toilet paper with them if they might need to do their business out in nature. I laughed when I read this but that was nothing compared to the men running for the treeline to pee when the buses stopped. Sorry guys, I had to take a picture!

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Typical scenery along the course

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The guys at the treeline after we unloaded from the buses
The course was beautiful and really scenic. In case you guys haven't realized this yet, I grew up in the country and any race that involves basically running through the middle of nowhere and has cows along the course is a winner in my book. Another girl and I ran close together for miles and I apologized for my phone being so loud every mile but she insisted she liked hearing our pace so my loud phone and I stuck with her.

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The sweet girl I ran with for many miles and the police car that drove alongside us for most of the race

The course had a strict 2:45 cutoff and since I hadn't run much since Rocket City and my 50K trail race attempt (another blog post I've been meaning to write!) I was a little worried. The mile that was mostly the monster hill slowed me down and I could tell my legs were feeling the lack of running in the month of January but I pressed on.

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The monster hill and the point I lost my running friend
I ran hard coming into the city and once I saw the hospital I knew I could make it. In typical race fashion I sprinted to the finish and came in at 2:44:28. Cutting it a little close but I made it and came in last. There were people I passed in the last two miles of the race so I know people came in after me. I felt sorry for the lady behind me that pushed so hard at the end but came in just after 2:45.

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Medal and long sleeve t-shirt (I like them both!)
Some of you might read this and think that I'm slow and should feel bad about finishing last but I don't. I ran this for fun and I had a great time and knocked out another state in the process so I consider it a win-win. As much as I'd love to run a sub-2 half at some point in the future I may never be that speedy and I'm ok with it. I love running whether I'm slow or fast, first or last!

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Back of the shirt

Have you ever been first or last in a race?
Are you racing the states?

Love in the Balance by Regina Jennings

I had the privilege of reviewing Regina's first novel Sixty Acres and a Bride and I was honored to be chosen for this blog tour featuring her second novel. While I enjoyed the book I did find myself frustrated with Molly and Bailey, the two main characters. For two people that appeared to be so in love from the start they sure did make some incredibly awful decisions doing what they thought was best to ensure that they had a future together. Enter Edward Pierrepont. Molly finds herself playing right into her father's plan of her marrying someone wealthy in order to save the family business and carry on his legacy. Meanwhile Bailey is busy trying to prove himself worthy of someone that Molly would marry. Will Bailey be able to get his act together in time to keep Molly from making what might be a huge mistake or will Molly chose money over love?


Book Info 

About Love in the Balance
 
Handsome Cowboy or Debonair Tycoon.
How's a Girl to Choose?
Molly Lovelace dreams of a life without cares in Lockhart, Texas. She also dreams of handsome wrangler Bailey Garner, her ardent but inconsistent beau. The problem is, with Bailey's poor prospects, she just can't fit the two dreams together.
Then mysterious stranger Edward Pierrepont sweeps into town-and her life-and for the first time Molly wonders if she's met the man who can give her everything. But he won't be in Lockhart long and while it certainly seems like he talks about their glorious future together, she can't quite get Bailey out of her mind.
What's a girl to do with all these decisions when love is in the balance? 
 
Link to buy the book: http://ow.ly/iTdiA          
 
Meet Regina:  
  
Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor. She has worked at The Mustang News and First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She now lives outside Oklahoma City with her husband and four children. 
 
Find out more about Regina at 
 
 Blog Tour Schedule



Regina Jennings is celebrating the release of Love in the Balance with a Kindle Fire Giveaway and a Facebook Author Chat Party on 4/4!


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One "lovely" winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire 
  • A copy of Regina's Sixty Acres and a Bride and Love in the Balance
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 3rd. Winner will be announced at the "Love in the Balance" Author Chat Party on April 4th. Connect with Regina, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at a trivia contest, and chat with readers just like you. There will also be many fun giveaways -- gift certificates, books, and more!

So grab your copy of Love in the Balance and join Regina on the evening of April 4th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 4th!


I received this book free of charge from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest review.