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Tuesday, May 23, 2023

A Lemon Goes a Paddling!

 It's been a year since I first sat in a kayak. It's been about 11 months since I bought my first kayak. I'll try not to bore you with too many details, but here's what I've learned and the stories that go along with the lessons learned.

I began by calling my friend who I knew owned kayaks:

Me: "Hey Stef, do you think I'd like kayaking?"

Stef: "Of course, let's go!"

Me: "I don't have anything..."

Stef: "It's ok - just bring yourself and some snacks."

My dear friend has two of everything. We loaded up two kayaks, two life vests, etc... and we spent the day kayaking on some inland lakes here in NorthEastern Wisconsin. We went to three small lakes that day and I was hooked. That afternoon, I went on FB Marketplace and purchased my first kayak (oddly enough the seller was my cousin and Godfather so the kayak came with a paddle, rolling cart, life jacket, hand pump, and all the amenities). My first kayak (shown above on my minivan) had rod holders and is still very much loved and used often. 

I enjoyed kayaking with friends, but the children quickly became interested. My eldest son picked up a small Pelican kayak a few weeks into my kayaking adventures. Turns out he's the one who fishes and he's stronger than I am - so he started using my larger kayak and I got real cozy with the lightweight kayak. Within a few weeks his younger siblings got the itch and we purchased a small child sized kayak from Fleet Farm. My farmer husband was getting a little concerned as by this point we were losing space int he garage. 

Here's a quick pic of the Pelican and my favorite grown up beverage - Press Seltzer (above)

Now back to the story - we had to find a way for all 5 kids to join in the fun on the water, but we were out of room on the roof of the minivan... and keep in mind, we couldn't put much more than the child sized kayak IN the minivan as we need room for 6 of us plus paddles, vests, etc... (and snacks)

We purchased 2 inflatable stand up paddleboards (SUPs) and this was working beautifully - I could comfortably use my SUP with one or both of the youngest girls with me, the other kids could share the kayaks, we could trade off, and many afternoons were spent on the water as a family. For our wedding anniversary in August 2022 I even got my farmer to come with me and we explored Horseshoe Lake together then went for a lovely dinner. 

I felt confident kayaking alone, with the family, with friends, etc... but I had yet to explore any rivers (even though we live within a mile of two beautiful rivers). 

This past weekend I went on an adventure with 14 others as I FINALLY had a chance to explore a river kayak trip. Unfortunately my eldest son broke his arm and couldn't join me as we originally planned - but I was still pretty excited. We put the kayaks in at Hwy S on the Manitowoc River and our end point was on Mill Road. This trip took all of 5 hours because the water levels were a bit low and we had so many people. I was warned not to bring anything valuable and told my yak might get scratched. Since I was going without my son, I brought my folding stepstool and the lightest kayak we have - the orange Pelican (shown above). It felt like a good choice...

Not sure if it was the size of the kayak or my inexperience, I nearly tipped right off in the trip (I could still see the launch) and I spent the first hour with a considerable amount of cold water in the kayak. Luckily my friends helped me and I emptied out (twice along the trip) but I was still really struggling with getting stuck in low areas, hitting rocks, taking on water, etc... this was a whole new experience for me. This wasn't relaxing. It was fun - but a different sort of fun than I've had before. 

Once of girls with us didn't seem to be having the same struggles I was - so I asked her some questions about her kayak as we were departing. I was cold, wet, tired, and felt pretty defeated - luckily a friend lifted my kayak onto my minivan because I wasn't sure I could... and here this girl who hadn't struggled the entire trip was already set to go. Her kayak had disappeared and she was holding a duffel bag. I was confused...

Her kayak that handled the rapids so well fit into the trunk of her fuel efficient tiny car... I made a mental note to find out more as soon as possible. This is when I learned about PAKAYAK and now I must have one ... it's a kayak that can go anywhere and handle just about anything! Sadly there are no dealers around here for a demo - but check this out:

Now my birthday is coming up and all the colors are great - but the SURF color is absolutely amazing! If I get one, I'd love to show everyone how this is such a gamechanger. Imagine having your kayak with you all day every day -  a stressful day at the office and you can sneak away at lunch and go kayaking; on the way home and a friend texts about an opportunity to explore - you're ready! This really is amazing.

Now - nothing against the kayaks I already have - but I didn't know anything like this existed. I could have saved so much money - you don't need roof racks, you don't need to watch youtube videos about how to properly strap down your kayak (or how to safely put 2 on your roof), and I saw this kayak in action - and trust me when I say it's sturdy and water tight! I was emptying out my kayak and here this girl was dry as can be in her PakAYak! 

I wish someone had told me about this option a year ago... and that's why I put together this blog post - I want to save the rest of you some time and money - I've easily spent $2,000 trying to make my other kayaks do what I could have done with a PakAYak...

Hopefully the Bluefin 142 will be the next member of our family!

Happy Paddling Friends! 


Sunday, March 19, 2023

5 Star Book Review for Elizabeth Goddard's "Cold Light of Day" (book review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto)


Cold Light of Day

by Elizabeth Goddard

February 20 - March 20, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


Cold Light of Day by Elizabeth Goddard

Police Chief Autumn Long is fighting to keep her job in the quiet Alaska town of Shadow Gap when an unexpected string of criminal activity leaves her with a wounded officer, unexplained murders, and even an attack on her own father. Despite her mistrust of outsiders, she turns to Grier Brenner, a newcomer who seems to have the skills and training Autumn needs to face this threat to her community.

Grier is in Alaska for the same reason so many others are--to disappear--when Chief Long enlists his help. He emerges from the shadows and proves his mettle, but his presence in her life could be a deadly trap for them both. If his secret is exposed, all will be lost. And he's not sure even Autumn could save him.

As the stakes rise and the dangers increase, Autumn and Grier must rely on each other to extinguish the deadly threats.

Praise for Cold Light of Day:


DiAnn Mills, author of Concrete Evidence

"An exhilarating, page-turning race to the finish!"

Carrie Stuart Parks, bestselling author of Relative Silence

"Gripping and hard-hitting."

James R. Hannibal, award-winning author of Elysium Tide

"Elizabeth Goddard has created a novel that immerses the reader in small-town Alaska. From the first page, it's a race to stay alive and solve a number of ever-spiraling mysteries. I highly recommend this novel."

Cara Putman, award-winning author of Flight Risk and Lethal Intent

"A simmering romantic suspense with an explosive ending. Once more Goddard proves she is a master storyteller and deserving of her place as one of the best Christian romantic suspense authors of our time."

Mary Alford, author of Among the Innocent

Book Details:

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published by: Revell
Publication Date: February 2023
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 9780800742041 (ISBN10: 0800742044)
Series: Missing in Alaska, 1
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | Goodreads | Baker Book House


Author Bio:

Elizabeth Goddard

Elizabeth Goddard is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of more than 50 novels, including Cold Light of Day and the Rocky Mountain Courage and Uncommon Justice series. Her books have sold nearly 1.5 million copies. She is a Carol Award and Reader's Choice Award winner and a Daphne du Maurier Award finalist. When she's not writing, she loves spending time with her family, traveling to find inspiration for her next book, and serving with her husband in ministry. For more information about her books, visit her website at

Catch Up With Elizabeth Goddard:
BookBub - @ElizabethGoddard
Instagram - @elizabethgoddardauthor
Twitter - @bethgoddard
Facebook - @ElizabethGoddardAuthor



I absolutely loved each and every page of “Cold Light of Day” by Elizabeth Goddard. This novel was unexpected in that it wasn’t your same old ordinary predictable romance with a hint of mystery or mystery with a hint of romance. I had no idea who should be trusted or who might have been around the next turn. This unpredictability made it oh so much fun to read! (as a side note, I took it with me everywhere I went one Saturday and even got the pages wet in the hot tub at the hotel we were staying at; I literally did not want to put this book down.) 

 Grier is such a quiet hero and Autumn is likable and sweet. Their guy/girl next door qualities make them relatable and you feel as if you know them personally. I was incredibly thankful to find out “Cold Light of Day” was book 1 in a series, because you can’t help but want more of these delightful characters, quaint little town, and gorgeous Alaskan setting. I’m looking forward to reading more books by talented author Elizabeth Goddard.

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaway entries!




This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Elizabeth Goddard. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.



Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours


Friday, March 17, 2023

5 Star Review for Michael French's "Ghost With Two Hearts" - A WOW! Women on Writing Book Blog Tour Stop

5 Star Review:

Ghost with Two Hearts is such an interesting book. I didn't really know what to expect but I loved the dialogue and characters and really enjoyed leaving the country and experiencing something new through my travels in Japan with Adrian. Like all good books do, this one transported me along with it's characters to an unfamiliar place. Thank you Michael R. French for your delightful writing!

I've read many of Michael French's books and they are all incredibly different, yet one important thing remains the same, the attention to detail. French does a fantastic job weaving a seamless story whether the topic is a ghost love story set in Japan (like Ghost with Two Hearts) or a murder in a small Texas town (like Once Upon a Lie), French builds his story with well written characters, just the right amount of details, and all of the plot twists required to keep the reader at the edge of their seat. I feel engaged from cover to cover when reading anything written by this particular author. 

Ghost with Two Hearts is timeless and sure to be enjoyed by readers for years to come. 5 stars for sure! 

~Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

Ghost with Two Hearts by Michael R. French

We're excited to be part of the WOW! Women on Writing book blog tour for Ghost with Two Hearts by Michael R. French. This book is perfect for readers who enjoy page-turning love stories set in Japan.  
Here is a bit more about Ghost with Two Hearts:
Approaching 30, Adrian, a talented software engineer, takes stock of his wealth and accolades - and how unhappy he is. He doesn't make friends easily, dislikes social media, and was bloodied in a divorce. He finds no common purpose in a country defined by political vitriol, distrust, and inequality. Taking a leave of absence from his company, he travels to Japan with a samurai sword that his grandfather stole from a Japanese captain in World War Two. Adrian is determined to find its rightful heir. Doing the morally correct thing, he hopes, will make him feel better about his life.
Print length: 193 pages
Genre: Fiction, Cultural Heritage Fiction, Ghost Fiction
Published January 12, 2023
ISBN-13: 979-8370416842
Ghost with Two Hearts is available in print and as an ebook at Amazon. You can add it to your GoodReads reading list as well.
About the Author Michael R. French
Michael R. French graduated from Stanford University where he was an English major, focusing on creative writing, and studied under Wallace Stegner. He received a Master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He later served in the United States Army before marrying Patricia Goodkind, an educator and entrepreneur, and starting a family.
In addition to publishing over twenty titles, including award-winning young adult fiction, adult fiction, biographies and self-help books, he has written or co-written a half-dozen screenplays, including Intersection, which has won awards in over twenty film festivals. He has also had a long business career in real estate, living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His passions include travel, collecting rare books, and hanging with friends and family. He describes his worst traits as impatience and saying "no" too quickly; his best are curiosity, taking risks, and learning from failure.
French’s work, which includes several best-sellers, has been warmly reviewed in the New York Times and been honored with a number of literary prizes.
Find Michael online at:
Ghost with Two Hearts by Michael R. French Blog Tour

--- Blog Tour Dates
March 13th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Join us at the WOW blog to celebrate the launch of author Michael R. French’s Ghost with Two Hearts. You can read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book.
March 14th @ A Storybook World
Hear from Michael R. French about "What Drives an Author" as he delights readers at A Storybook World. Find out more about his latest novel, Ghost with Two Hearts and learn more about this talented author!
March 15th @ Madeline Sharples
"Helping or Hurting" is today's essay title at Madeline's blog as readers of Choices hear from Michael R. French about his latest novel, Ghost with Two Hearts.
March 17th @ Author Anthony Avina
Author Anthony Avina reviews fellow author Michael R. French's latest work Ghost with Two Hearts. Find out how this novel measures up today!
TODAY! March 18th @ Bring on Lemons with Crystal Otto
Crystal Otto reviews Ghost with Two Hearts by Michael R, French. Crystal has read many of French's books - find out how his latest novel measures up!
March 19th @ Fiona Ingram
Is there a "Place for Older Authors"? Find out by stopping at Fiona Ingram's blog and reading the essay by Michael R. French today! This is a great chance to learn more about this successful author and his latest novel, Ghost with Two Hearts!
March 23rd @ Book Santa Fe with Carmen Otto
Hear from a teenager as she reviews Ghost with Two Hearts by Michael R. French. How many stars will she give? Will this be the novel she refers to her friends? Find out today!
March 30th @ The Mommies Reviews
Texas girl, Glenda offers her review of Michael R. French's latest novel, Ghost with Two Hearts! Stop by Glenda's blog to learn more today!
April 14th @ Pages and Paws
Michael R. French shares his essay "The Tail or the Dog" for readers at Pages and Paws. Stop by to find out more about Michael and his latest novel, Ghost with Two Hearts.
April 20th @ Knotty Needle Creative
Judy from the Knotty Needle offers her thoughts after reading the latest novel by Michael R. French. Find out what Judy has to say about Ghost with Two Hearts today!
April 21st @ World of My Imagination
Nicole Pyles reviews Ghost with Two Hearts by Michael R. French. Read what she shares with readers at her World of My Imagination blog.
April 28th @ Wildwood Reads
Megan offers her review of Michael R. French's Ghost with Two Hearts for readers at Wild Wood Reads; don't miss her valuable insight of Michael's latest novel!
May 2nd @ Jill Sheets
Jill sheets interviews Michael R. French. Find out more about this talented author and his latest novel Ghost with Two Hearts by stopping by Jill's blog today!


Friday, March 3, 2023

YOU are invited to TWO WOW! Women on Writing Book Blog Tours - Anomaly Aftermath by Hugh Fritz and The Dark Side of Grace by Ronald Chapman - SIGN UP TODAY!

 I am thrilled to invite you to one or both of these amazing book blog tours! 

May 1st
WOW! Women on Writing
An Amazing Book Blog Tour
Anomaly Aftermath
Hugh Fritz

June 5th
WOW! Women on Writing 
An Amazing Book Blog Tour
The Dark Side of Grace
Ronald Chapman

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Hey Old Friend - It's Been Too Long!


Dear Friend,

I've been missing you. Isn't it weird how when you let too much time pass, it makes it even harder to reach out? I've meant to call you so many times. Why didn't I? Well...why didn't you? You must be busy. You don't really want to listen to my "stuff" anyway. I'm not very interesting and I don't have much to share. Life is so busy with little kids and big kids and know the drill. What would we talk about anyway? Maybe I should just invite you to do something. What if you think I'm a bad mom because I want to go see that new band? I probably am a bad mom because I want a night away. I better just skip that phone call too. 

Remember when we would do something every Saturday afternoon? Maybe this... oh wait, swimming lessons. Never mind. I should probably figure out what to wear before I invite you for coffee - you'll certainly notice I've gained 11 pounds. Shoot - now I should clean my closet. I wonder if you want my hand me downs? Is that insulting? So much for doing anything, nothing fits. I should join a gym. Maybe we can do that together? Oh wait - is that offensive? I'm not saying you need to lose weight. I just want to hang out with you. Scratch that idea too.

I know - I'll just invite you to the upcoming birthday party for one of the kids. Oh...bad call on that too - what if you think I am only inviting you because I want you to bring a gift? Shoot...another bad idea. Speaking of the party - I better order the cake today. Like I need more cake.










It's not you and it's not that I don't want to see you. I miss you. I miss me. 

Why is this stage of life so hard? The teenagers wish I'd move away...and hire a maid and leave them with my debit card. The littles enjoy my time, but I feel like the time I have to offer is ridiculous. I just want to take a nap. What's self care? How do all these other moms seem to have everything so together? I can't even maintain a friendship much less my car - and the light is on again in there too...

Love Always,

The Mom Friend 

Monday, January 30, 2023

5 Stars for "It Gets Easier!...And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers" by Claudine Wolk as part of her WOW! Women on Writing Audio Blog Tour


If you are a mom or know a mom, or have a mom, you will want to add Claudine Wolk's audiobook It Gets Easier!...And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers by Claudine Wolk to your reading list. I'm so excited to be part of this audiobook tour!

I'll tell you more in my 5 star review -  But first, here's a bit about the book:

Every new mom learns pretty quickly how difficult new motherhood is but also that nobody tells the truth about it. Author and narrator Claudine Wolk learned the same lesson after her son was born but decided to speak the truth about motherhood with humorous insight and reality-based suggestions. A few crucial tips can make motherhood a bit more controllable and a lot more enjoyable.

Publisher: AMACOM
ISBN-10: 978-0840711151
ISBN-13: 0840711151
Length: 4 hrs and 56 mins

Purchase a copy of the audiobook on Libro.fmAudible or You can also add the book to your reading list on

About the Author, Claudine Wolk

Claudine Wolk is a writer, radio talk show host, podcast host, and book marketing consultant. Her first book, It Gets Easier and Other Lies We Tell New Mothers has affectionately become “the perfect baby shower gift.” Claudine is working on her second non-fiction book aimed at helping writers who want to publish and market a book in the same fun, practical way as her first book. Claudine lives with her husband, Joe, in Bucks County, PA and has three grown children and a baby grandson. More at

Other places you can find the author online:

Stories and Strategies for Woman Podcast:

---- Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

"It Gets Easier" is a fun, practical guide to becoming a Mom from the perspective of Claudine Wolk who is a columnist, blogger, speaker and mother of three. Her  book is an easy read/listen with fun stories and examples from her own experiences and those of people she has interviewed. Wolk's charm and wit shine through and though the book is helpful, it doesn't feel preachy like a self help book. (there's a difference between helpful and self help if you ask me)

Throughout the book, the reader is reminded that there is no single right way to raise a child. Mothers are empowered to choose their own path and yet but learning about other families and their experiences you get a sense of community. This isn't a crunchy mama guide to breastfeeding and cloth diapers, although it's not all about formula and disposable nappies either. All options are explained and the reader is empowered to do what works best for them. Whether you have children, are having children, wish you were having children, or know someone having children, there's something for you in "It Gets Easier". 

From the beginning of "It Gets Easier" by Claudine Wolk, all the way to the end, I felt at ease. This guide to becoming a mom felt much like having coffee with my friends at our local moms club. In both cases, our lives are different, our choices potentially opposite, and our stories nothing alike - yet we have a common goal of surviving motherhood with our sanity intact. A breastfeeding mama could sit next to a formula feeding mama and engage one another finding the similarities in our situations while also respecting the differences. The physical moms club meeting shared the same warm fuzzy feeling I felt with "It Gets Easier" - I love the idea sharing in both scenarios! 

This was a wonderful audio book and I can honestly say I also purchased the written copy looking forward to reading the stories again! Nicely done Claudine! and thank you to WOW! Women on Writing for including us in this audiobook blog tour! 

It Gets Easier! ... And Other Lies We Tell Mothers by Claudine Wolk - Audiobook Blog Tour

---- Blog Tour Calendar

January 16th @ The Muffin
Join us at WOW! as we celebrate the launch of Claudine Wolk's audiobook version of It Gets Easier!...And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.

January 16th @ Just Katherine
Join Katherine as she reviews the audiobook version of It Gets Easier!....And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.

January 17th @ Liberate and Lather
Join Angela as she reviews the audiobook version of  It Gets Easier!....And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.

January 19th @ Jill Sheets Blog
Join Jill as she interviews the author about her book It Gets Easier!....And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.

January 20th @ The Mommies Review
Join Glenda as she reviews It Gets Easier!....And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers. You'll also have the chance to win a copy of the book too!

January 20th @ Ellen Blogs
Visit Ellen's blog and read Claudine's guest post about going from self-published to traditionally published. It can be done!

January 21st World of My Imagination
Nicole features Claudine Wolk on her weekly featured three things on a Saturday night. She also gives away a copy of the audiobook It Gets Easier!....And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.

January 22nd @ Just Katherine
Join Katherine again as she shares a guest post by Claudine Wolk about the eight lies we tell new mothers.

January 25th @ Chapter Break
Join Julie's blog as she features a spotlight of the audiobook It Gets Easier!....And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers. 

January 26th @ A Storybook world
Deirdra shares a guest post by Claudine Wolk about the five mom mantras that will keep you sane.

January 27th @ What Is That Book About
Join Michelle as she reviews the audiobook It Gets Easier!....And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers. 

January 30th @ Michelle Cornish' blog
Join Michelle as she features a guest post by Claudine Wolk about message, hook, and audience: the starting point to successfully market your book.

January 31st @ Bring on Lemons
Crystal rewards us with her review of It Gets Easier!....And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.

February 1st @ World of My Imagination
Nicole features Michelle's guest review of It Gets Easier!...And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.

February 3rd @ Knotty Needle
Visit Judy's blog for her insights about It Gets Easier!...And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.

February 3rd @ Lady Unemployed
Visit Nicole's blog and read Claudine's guest post about how to get started on a voice acting career.

February 5th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Join Wendi as she reviews It Gets Easier!....And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers. You also have the chance to win a copy of the audiobook!

February 5th @ Celticlady's Reviews
Join Kathleen's blog as she spotlights It Gets Easier!....And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.

February 6th @ Celticlady's Reviews
Visit Kathleen's blog again as she features a guest post by Claudine Wolk featuring uncensored advice for new mothers.

February 7th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Visit Wendi's blog again as features Claudine's guest post about power shifts in your relationship with your partner and how to get it back.

February 10th @ Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews
Read an interview with Claudine Wolk at Lisa Haselton's blog.

February 11th @ Rockin Book Reviews
Join Lu Ann as she features a guest post by Claudine about reasonably cost-effective ways to promote your book. She'll also be giving away a copy of the audiobook as well!

February 13th @ Bookshine and Readbows
Join Steph's blog for her insightful reviews of It Gets Easier!...And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.

February 15th @ Word Magic
Fiona shares a guest post from Claudine about where to start with book marketing.

February 15th @ Amy's Booket List
Join Amy for her review of It Gets Easier!...And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers. You'll also have the chance to win a copy of the book too!