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Monday, February 26, 2024

5 Stars for Alexandria Pall's "B.O.A.T" - Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

About the Book:
Seventeen-year-old April has spent her childhood in therapy, learning to dismiss her imaginary friends as just that: imaginary. Now, as a college freshman, she hopes to leave behind the whispers and cruel rumors that have plagued her for years. 

When April begins to embrace her newfound independence, her world is turned upside down when she crosses paths with Tommy and Bobby, two figures her therapist insisted were figments of her imagination.

Nineteen-year-old Tommy has spent his life waiting for a mission that has haunted him. April’s reappearance shatters his reality, prompting him, April and Bobby to uncover a hidden truth that will change everything. 

The trio must unite to fulfill their destiny. But an ominous force is closing in on them, one that will stop at nothing to prevent them from completing their mission. The stakes grow darker, threatening not only their lives but the wellbeing of future generations. 

With time running out and the world’s fate hanging in the balance, fitting in will be the least of April’s concerns. She will need to confront the demons of her past and present, fighting for what she cherishes most.

Alexandria's Website:


This is such a fantastic read - engaging is probably the best word to describe the experience. I enjoyed the characters and storyline as well as Pall's writing style. I would be interested in other books by this author and felt "B.O.A.T" was a relaxing reading experience!

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Staycation - the Post You're All Waiting For! Manitowoc County Wisconsin in the Spotlight!

 We recently had the opportunity to staycay in our very own town; this is an experience I highly recommend! We had a fabulous time exploring. Whether you live in or near Manitowoc County, Wisconsin or have never been here, this post has something for you!

Here's our list of things you won't want to miss:

Where to Stay/Eat/Play: The Lighthouse Inn 1515 Memorial Drive Two Rivers, WI 54241

Star Rating: 4.75

Additional Notes: The rooms were clean and spacious. We had a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan and this is a very affordable place to stay. This is an older hotel but very well maintained - the swimming pool and hot tub were a hit with the entire family! There was a wedding one of the nights we stayed at the facility was beautifully decorated - this is definitely somewhere I would recommend for a wedding or anniversary gathering! We ate at the bar/restaurant several times. Each meal was delicious and the service was outstanding! Laura, Bryce, Scott, and Jim are some of our favorite people from the Lighthouse Inn staff. We even had an opportunity to hear Happy Birthday played on the violin for some dining guests celebrating their special day! The children loved breakfast the most and it's served all day! The Mule at the bar was a favorite for me - and the cedar planked salmon was divine! My youngest son as well as my husband also give 5 stars to the bbq ribs! 

Where to Eat: The Waverly 1402 16th Street Two Rivers, WI 54241

Star Rating: 4.75

Additional Notes: The Waverly offers a wide variety of foods - everything from pizza and apps for the kids, drinks for the adults, salads and fish plates for the adults, and there's a recent addition of dessert! If you don't like the dessert offering, there's some delicious drinks that might interest you. I know I really enjoy a little something sweet after a nice meal. The salad with salmon is delicious but I also recommend the bbq chicken pizza! We've never had a bad meal at the Waverly. It can be loud depending how full the facility is - but it's a great place for the entire family! 

Where to get your Nails done: CT Nail Salon 1607 Washington Street Two Rivers, WI 54241

Star Rating: 4.25

Additional Notes: CT Nail Salon does a nice job but sometimes there can be quite a wait (even with an appointment). The technicians are sweet and they offer a lot of options. The chairs are incredibly comfortable although the salon can often feel a bit overcrowded. They do NOT have special chairs for children, but they are very accommodating for the younger guests.

Where to get a Massage or Unique Gift: Rebel Massage and Energy 1613 Washington Street Two Rivers Wisconsin

Star Rating: 5.00

Additional Notes: I absolutely love love love going to see Jessica for a hot stone massage. She's got a great mix of personality and tranquility and I always leave feeling renewed and rejuvenated. Her prices are reasonable and the retail side of things is always a special treat! 

Where to purchase Books: Paper Crane Bookstore 1610 Washington Street Two Rivers Wisconsin OR La De Da Books 1624 New York Avenue Manitowoc Wisconsin

Paper Crane Star Rating: 4.75

La De Da Star Rating: 5.00

Additional Notes: We absolutely love the atmosphere of both book stores. Both are family friendly with great customer service. La De Da offers a piano and a few more options with a bit more space, so we recommend checking out both as they are each unique and very special! 

Where to grab a Coffee: Retro Eighth Coffee & Acai 801 North 8th Street Manitowoc Wisconsin OR The High Lift 1207 Madison Street Two Rivers Wisconsin

Retro Eighth Star Rating: 5.0

The High Lift Star Rating: 5.0

Additional Notes: Each coffee shop is different and both provide great options and exceptional customer service. There are more food options at Retro but Hight Lift offers the convenience of a drive through. They're also in different towns - and as you know you can never have too much coffee - so check both of them out while you're in town (and if you need a friend to join you just let me know!)

Where to Shop: Schroeder's Department Store 1623 Washington Street Two Rivers Wisconsin

Star Rating: 4.5

Additional Notes: Whether you're looking for a thong to hide the panty lines under your sleekest slacks, or a bath robe for gramma - Schroeder's has you covered! Hats to sandals and everything in between! You can also find a nice selection of gifts, decor, men's dress clothes, hiking apparel, coffee drinks, and so much more! 

Where to find Fine Dining: The Waterfront Wine Bar  2 North 8th Street Manitowoc Wisconsin

Star Rating: 5.0

Additional Notes: We absolutely love the food options at the Waterfront Wine Bar and the atmosphere is exquisite! We've never had a bad experience and highly recommend the prime rib. Some of our favorite friends are Bree, Stacy, Rachel, Megean, and James but the most amazing staff can be found right by this gem on the water! 

Other Unique Opportunities: Ice Skating in the Middle of Town, Visit the Beach - she's a beauty year round! Stop at Woodland Dunes Nature Center!

Additional Notes: Two Rivers and Manitowoc have so very much to offer - there's biking and hiking, skating, reading, and playing. Did you know Manitowoc has a Symphony? The options are endless regardless of what you enjoy! 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Rolling with the Punches - Plan D and a Granola Bar


I couldn't find a good pic for "rolling with the punches" because my hands are dry and my nails look awful (I did take some really crappy punching pictures - I'm also having a bad hair day) so this is what you get. I don't even remember why we took this funny photo, but it seems a bit appropriate for how our faces may look when our day falls apart! It's not even noon on a Thursday and plans A through C have already failed. I'm onto Plan D and a Granola Bar. I'm sure you can relate. We make a list, we set our goals, we do the preparation, and ... we wake up late, the car doesn't start, the roads aren't plowed, the crock pot won't heat up, someone calls and needs something, and the list goes out the window, the goals seem unattainable, and no matter how well prepared we were, we find ourselves eating a partial granola bar one of the kids left under the seat of the mom mobile. 

I'm not complaining by any means. I make time for the things that matter as I'm sure you do too. My nails are a mess, but my kids had the right treats and their Valentine's yesterday were spot on! I forgot my fresh veggies in the fridge at home, but the permission slips are signed, the clothes are washed, and we woke up with giggles, cuddles, and laughter (except the teens - but they've got gas $, cheese crackers, and energy drinks...if you have teens, you understand). My hubby woke up to a clean house and a fresh pot of coffee. My mother will soon have her fresh from the oven pasties. The people that matter are well cared for and it doesn't really matter that I didn't get the filing done. There's also that closet I've been meaning to organize for...well...forever...

Let's talk about that. We make time for the things that matter. The people that matter. Right?

You're nodding your head in agreement aren't you? We make time to call and check in on our friends. We make time to care for our families. We make time to volunteer. 

What's missing in this article so far?

It's the same thing that I'm missing in my life. Maybe you have the same problem I do. I'm saying this for both of us:


I know that and you do too - but yet we put ourselves at the end of the list. For me, I haven't exercised in 3 days. It brings me joy and yet I push it to the end of the list. I wish I had a solution for us. Keep putting things that bring you joy on your daily list. Keep reminding yourself that you matter. Try to remember that if you're on a plane and the oxygen masks drop down, you should put the mask on yourself first and then tend to the children. 

I'll be over here trying to fill my cup so I can pour it out...

Feel free to comment with your thoughts, ideas, struggles, and triumphs. 

Remember I love you!


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Even in the Darkness


Even in the darkness there is light. Think about that. There's always a small glimmer - from a phone, streetlight, tiny twinkling star, or maybe it's not even something you can see. Maybe it's a tiny light inside of you. A small ember just waiting for a breath of fresh air to spark them into a raging fire of light! Regardless of where your light is coming from - if you nurture it, it will grow. If you focus on the light, the darkness seems less dark. Less lonely. Less intimidating. All of use have a different light and a different energy. Some of us thrive in a group setting, yet others wither and feel themselves fading when they are with others. Some of us have spent a lifetime pleasing others and have no idea what fuels their light and energy. 

I'm going to give you a moment to let that sink in. Have you spent a lifetime pleasing others, fitting yourself into someone else's box, and now you find yourself questioning everything. Your light and energy have faded and you aren't quite sure how to kindle your flame? Are you asking yourself "where did it all go wrong?" or "when did my fire die down?"? The first thing I want you to know is you are not alone. The second thing I need you to know is with a little bit of digging and working, you'll be headed in the right direction. Like a Wisconsin garden in the spring, all you need is a little time and love and soon you'll be in full bloom. Your fire will be raging once again! 

Don't feel like you need to do this alone. Reach out to friends and family, a counselor, a pastor, or a stranger at a coffee shop. You may find your purpose in art, volunteering, helping others, baking, cooking, reading, exercise, or a variety of other things. Each of us has a different spark of light and those individual sparks are going to grow with something uniquely yours. I'm a list maker. I have a list of things that bring me joy and next to each of those "things" is a list of feelings that come from them. For example, riding horses makes me feel strong and young, reminds me of my childhood and my father. Leaves me feeling energized and renewed. Sitting at the beach makes me think about calm summer days and I feel clear headed and relaxes. Depending on what is causing my inner darkness, I can find the appropriate light source to get me where I need to be. Each day is different - AND THAT IS PERFECTLY OKAY. 

It's okay to need people one day and want to take a solo walk in the woods the next day. It's okay to spend 3 months painting and filling canvases and then leave your brushes untouched for a year. Feeding your internal fire and filling your darkness with light is fluid. The night sky is unique every evening and changes depending where you are and when you view it - and just like that night sky is ever changing, so are you. You bring a unique light to a unique darkness - don't be afraid to be your very own unique light. Even in the Darkness - bring it!

Love and Hugs,

Monday, February 12, 2024

Failing Forward

 Here I am didn't hear from me for a long time and now two posts in two days? Let me tell you a little about that. Have you ever thought to yourself, 'I'd really like to call ________ but it's been so long, they're going to think it's crappy of me. I don't know why I waited so long, but I just can't call outta the blue.'? 

Of course you've had that internal dialogue - we ALL have. So often times we just put down the phone and hope they're doing well. Sometimes we make the call - and honestly has anyone ever chastised you? I mean okay - sometimes our moms or aunties can be a little harsh - but has a friend ever said "wow, it's been a really long time, you're an asshole, bye" of course not! The friend says how happy they are to hear from you and you chat as if no time has gone by at all.

I have a similar relationship with my writing and my health. I enjoy eating healthy and exercise and I enjoy writing, but life so often times gets in the way and I find myself making goals and then falling flat. One day of eating yucky turns into weeks. One skipped run turns into a months worth of skipped runs. My writing notebook has a few amazing pages and a layer of dust on top of it. As I pass the treadmill, throw away the spinach, and wipe the dust off my notebook I give into the negative self talk. I hear my own voice trying to knock me down - telling me I'm lazy, unmotivated, getting fat, never going to accomplish my goals, etc...

And you know what - I'm telling that voice to shut up ( my mom reads my blog so I'll leave it at that for now ) but basically this shirt is the voice I want to hear: NOPE, NOT TODAY! Today I'm not going to fall into the stinking thinking. Today I'm not going to stay away from the things that bring me joy. Today is not the day I'm going to give up. I'm going to write, run, eat the avocado, and I'm going to tell myself how amazing I am! How I'm stronger mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually than I was a day/week/month ago and how I may have failed but how that failure is now my motivation to move forward!

I'm failing forward - why not join me? Grab the list of things you enjoy and the names and numbers of people you've lost touch with and fail forward by taking one step at a time. Admit you've made some mistakes and conjure up the energy to move forward. 

What is it that you want to move forward with? What is something you're proud of? Leave a comment - we love to hear from you!

All my love,




Let's talk about contrast for a moment. My initial thought was I should write an article about light and darkness and in reality I'm still writing the same article - just a bit of a better spin on it. Contrast is of course the state of one thing being different from another - which makes it the perfect word to use when speaking on the subject of light and darkness. As an artist though - I'd like to talk about contrast which is the coming together of two opposite elements. Look at this picture for example - the restaurant looks dark only because the light is shining in the window and the photograph was taken with me facing the light and the camera facing the dark. The opposing elements cause the contrast. I ask myself, would the warmth of Wisconsin summer seem less warm without the cold of a Wisconsin winter? Would our joyful life experiences seem less joyful if not for the pain of our anxiety filled struggles? 

I initially wanted to write an uplifting article about how the light always breaks through the darkness and I still want you to remember that. I remind myself daily and the sunrise also reminds me. Write now though, our family is struggling and even though I have knowledge of brighter days ahead and I know the sun is shining and some days it's just hidden from me - I need to be honest with myself (and with you dear reader) and say that sometimes it's not enough. Some days I can pull myself out of the funk of darkness by concentrating on the promise of sunshine and brighter days ahead. Some days I would be just as happy to crawl back under the covers and bask in the darkness of sleep.

Am I depressed? Maybe. Is life hard? Definitely. Do I have a lot of friends pulling for me? Absolutely. Am I hesitant to ask for help? Of course. Is it easier for me to be the helper than to admit I'm a puddle on the floor? Yup - that's me! Do I wish someone would pick me up and carry me until I have the strength to stand? Yup - also me!

What's the point of this post? Well... I'm here to tell you it's okay if you aren't the bubbly ray of sunshine folks are accustomed to. It's okay if your chipper smile at the barista in the drive through line is fake for now. It's okay if the only thing getting you out of bed is your obligation to parent tiny humans. It's okay if the only reason you showered this week is because you couldn't go another moment smelling yourself. It's okay to hide behind a fake smile and make up. 


You should only hide for a while. Find someone to talk to. Find yourself someone who is willing to sit on the bathroom floor with you. Someone who is willing to help you up and who is brave enough to tell you how awful you smell. Someone who says "I'll wait in the kitchen while you shower and then, let's go for coffee". Someone who helps you find a professional who can help you. Someone who helps you fill out the paperwork for your appointment with the professional. Someone who helps you arrange your thoughts and asks how your appointment went. Someone who asks when your next appointment is and calls you that day to remind you to go. Someone who checks on you and checks in daily until you have regained your strength of body and mind.

You may be accustomed to being the helper - but you have been driven to your knees and there is no way to get up without help. Allowing your anxious thoughts to consume you will ruin you and there is no shame in professional help and/or medication if necessary. I'm here to tell you that contrast in art is beautiful and someday you'll be so thankful for your own dark days because they'll make you appreciate the light! Keep chasing the light and find a tribe to chase it with you!

All my love!