Travel Often

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” — Rosalia de Castro

Love Deeply, but Laugh Along the Way

"Happiness is only real when shared." - Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

View Marriage as an Adventure

"Love is a flower which turns into fruit at marriage." ~Finnish Proverb

Fuel your body with GOOD (It's the only one you get)

He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything. - Arabian Proverb

Open your Soul to Motherhood

A Grand Adventure is About to Begin - Winnie the Pooh

A New Kind of Love is Born

Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why Having a Life is Good for Writers

Good stories come out of the busyness life provides...if we're paying attention

I whined to a writer friend last week that I take on too much and can't say "no" enough. His response: "you’ll probably agree all your “yes’s” – though hectic and sometimes overwhelming – are very life affirming while enriching you with things to write about."

Okay, fine Lyle, you are so right! (P.S. His book is coming out soon and it's a good one! I'll direct you to his blog once he gets it up and running.) 

Grabbed some friends and my hubs and headed to two wineries in Stillwater, MN for the day. AWESOME!

So I clamped my mouth shut and decided to sit back, enjoy and soak up ideas for my next manuscript. Problem was my mind was fuzzy. Real fuzzy. No, I wasn't drunk...I was at a loss for words... And that's not a good thing.

I've said it before on this blog. I started on manuscript (ms) #2 a couple months ago to kill time as I waited for responses on my query letter and received feedback from agents on my first ms. 

In the meantime some of my critique ladies read my first three chapters of #2 ms and asked if I was writing a psychological thriller. Say what? Hmmmmm. Not sure I was going for that. What was happening to me? I'm all about love and rainbows and dancing hearts. A psychological thriller?! Me??

That should've been my first sign. Then life became really busy and I began revising 360 pages of my first ms. And you know how that goes with a full-time job, freelance work, and all the other stuff that comes with being responsible. It's hard, but if you want it bad enough, you will find a way!

I thought 'finding a way' meant excluding myself from everyone and all the fun stuff happening around me. This is when my adult mature self (I'm now the ripe age of 32) came into play. There's a time when you have to look inside yourself and ask: Am I writing to write? Or am I truly writing for the love of writing?

Yes, that is Taylor Swift. This young lady reminded me how much I LOVE love. The first kiss. Falling in love. Holding back when I really wanted to scream from the roof tops. Saying I love you. She had glitter and everything. Yes, I swear I'm really 32...
 My first ms is my baby. That is my love. And I want to feel that way about every book I write. Obviously I want to continue writing about what I know and what I've experienced. I want to stand out. I want my stories and books to shine. But it's hard to do when everything around me is fuzzy and moving at an insane speed.

I noticed as I was writing ms #2, something was different. Maybe the words were forced? I was trying to push something that wasn't there? 

The problem with getting older is we're faced with more responsibilities - jobs and tasks that prevent us from sitting back and enjoying the small things. I know that sounds terrible. But think about it: a Popsicle on a hot day was all I needed to put a smile on my face after living carefree, playing in the woods and riding bikes with my brothers and the neighbor boys. The sounds of frogs and weird bugs chirping at night made me feel safe on a summer's night. I made time to count the stars or feel the blades of grass between my fingers.

When life becomes too routine, or we have too much going on at once, we start to forget about the good things. The small things. The awesome things. Life feels rushed and same with our words. 

We need the precious moments.

And sometimes writers become overwhelmed with deadlines and lists and finding balance. We have ten more pages to edit before our head hits the pillow or another manuscript to start, a deadline to meet, etc.

How can we not want Juliet to find her Romeo? Ahhh...LOVE <3
 But the reason we're writers is because we LOVE to write. We notice things. We observe people and the world around us and we relish the moments. We want to put into words the beautiful, amazing things happening around us. We need to! 

With that said, I took my writer friend's advice and LIVED!

And guess what? That's all I needed to do. The words started flowing. And I found my voice again. The words became clearer.

So go out there, have some fun, experience LIFE and do something daring. You never know what story you might get out of it!

Two friends who spent a long time looking for love, but realized sometimes all you need is a girlfriend to lean on!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Love all year long contest

Writing Contest!

I'm participating in another writing contest for my completed manuscript. I'm super pumped about this contest because it's all about LOVE! Got to love me some LOVE!

I'd appreciate you taking a moment to read over my 750-word love scene and let me know if I can improve my writing, scene, hook, etc. Basically I want to know if you want to read more! Or if there are any glaring mistakes.

The rules: To enter this contest, you should post a love scene from a finished manuscript on your blog this Sunday, June 12th. The excerpt must have a maximum length of 750 words, but it could be less if it ends on a hook (remember, sometimes less really is more). There is no minimum word count. The scene we're looking for can show love in all kinds of ways, in all kinds of genres. The scene should be romantic, but not necessarily a kissing scene. We're looking for any kind of love here. Go here if you want to play!

The fabulous agent, Weronika Janczuk, of Lynn C. Franklin Associates, Ltd. will be judging!

Wish me luck!

Genre: Women's Fiction/Contemporary Romance
Manuscript word count: 90,000

“Reservations for Jack Reid and Ella Dirks,” Jack explains to check in.

The short redhead with the turned-up nose hands him two cards. “Room nineteen-twenty-four, our fabulous royal suite. We’ve been expecting you two.”

My eyes bug out. “Royal suite?”

“There must be some sort of mistake,” Jack interjects. “We should be under two separate reservations.”

“Yes, we’re on Good Morning America tomorrow,” I explain in a panic as I grip the counter.

“Honey, I know who you are,” declares the redhead with a stern tone. “Your wedding is in seven weeks and this is your fiancĂ©.” She points to Jack with an authoritative finger.

I shake my head. “No. No. You have it all wrong. I’m looking for a fiancĂ©. This is just the editor-in-chief of the magazine sponsoring the dream wedding…”

She frowns and lets out a sigh as she taps her acrylics along the keyboard, shaking her head. I admire her careful bob as it manages to stay in perfect form. “Nope. That’s not what we were told. Enjoy your stay.” She slides to her right and waves over the next customer.

I open my mouth.

Jack’s large hand hooks my wrist. “It’ll be fine.” He pushes me along by the small of my back. “There’ll be plenty of room in the suite and we need to go to bed anyway.” He glances at his watch. “We're getting up in less than four hours.”

As we enter the three-bedroom suite, I realize Jack is right. Plenty of room. My eyelids grow heavy with each blink. I walk into my room and plop my suitcase on the large bed, falling back onto it. “I can’t believe I’m going to be on Good Morning America,” I say as my head adheres to the row of luxury pillows. I pump my feet along the mattress and let them slide over the Egyptian cotton sheets.

I roll to my side and glance at the clock. Fear creeps in as each minute ticks by. What questions will they ask about my wedding? Will they bring up how Chance left me? Will I say too much? Will America laugh at me? Will I cry…and on television? I swallow hard. A knock at my door startles me.

Jack walks in with a pillowcase wrapped around his head, blow dryer in hand, standing on his tiptoes. “Hello there Ella Dirks,” he speaks into the blow dryer sweetly. “It’s me Melissa Rycroft from Good Morning America and The Bachelor. I have a couple questions about your search for the perfect groom,” the pitch in his voice raises. He tilts the blow dryer from his mouth to my lips.

I roll over and laugh hysterically in my pillow.

“What? My hair not dark enough?” He showcases his hands over the pillowcase and smoothes the material. “My abs not flat enough like hers?” His mocked dainty voice catches and he coughs.

I continue laughing and he joins in, taking a seat next to me on the bed. I catch my breath and sit up. “Ohh, if you’re Melissa, does that mean you were also on Dancing with the Stars and have to dance for me?” I jump up and race over to the large sixty-inch flatscreen in the other room. I flip through the channels until I find one of the bumping music stations. I turn up the volume. “Okay, Melissa. Let’s dance.”

I begin pumping out the Roger Rabbit. He grins and pushes me aside as he moves his arms like a sprinkler. I grab my abs and let my head fall back in laughter. A slow song comes on and my head snaps forward. We both freeze. I bite my lip and study the freshly vacuumed carpet. Jack spins me around and pulls me in, holding me tightly against him. We sway back and forth and for a moment the world stops. I feel safe as I breathe in his wonderful soap smell and rest my head against his chest, listening to his heart drill against it.

As if something entered his mind, he steps back. “I’m sorry about that.” He clears his throat. “I’m sure you’re going to find a real nice groom, Ella. You’ll do great tomorrow. We should probably go to bed.” His brown eyes soften as he searches mine.

I shift my eyes to the floor, wishing he didn’t pull away, but push the thought from my mind. Would my future groom be watching me tomorrow on television? “Yeah, you’re probably right." We both walk into our rooms and close the doors. I spend the next few hours dreaming of my one-hundred-thousand-dollar wedding and the most perfect groom waiting to find me.

THANK YOU! And good luck to all the participants!!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Christie Koester - Graphic Designer

What? Christie does other things besides write?
Enter in Graphic Designer

Most people know me as Christie Koester, writer. Yes, writing is my passion, however, I do enjoy learning computer software programs and playing around with photos, graphics, colors, etc. I do like to design. After all, I'm a graphic designer by day. I didn't really go to school for it, but somehow design keeps falling into every position I've been in. Could be my personality or my willingness to take bright orange and paint our walls of our home without any reservations...and lime green, hot pink, yellow, etc.

Let's just say I'm a color person and I'm not afraid to use it. Black and white doesn't work well with me, and I'll give whatever project I'm asked to do back with enough pizazz to make your eyes pop. Ha!

I bet you can only imagine what our wedding was like? With that said...I'm giving you a peek into the fun stuff I did for our special day!

Maybe I was patiently waiting to have my 'fairytale' moment where I was finally able to plan my very own wedding. And maybe I'm a bit like my main character, Ella, in my book (Wanted: Groom for my $100K Wedding), but hear me out...I really couldn't help myself! Ha! Weddings make me smile. They make me giddy and happy and full of joy. I'm a dreamer and a huge sucker for love.

I went all out and made everything from our programs to invites to our super special wedding album to menus to table numbers to thank you cards. You name it, I designed it. Below are some of my examples! Enjoy!

A few pages from our photo album (I designed in InDesign CS3 and printed through

I do!!!

I frickin' LOVE love!!!

We had the best wedding party ever!!!!!!


Our fun wedding program (every job I've worked at, I've been in charge of the newsletters, so I had to work that into the design...yes, it was 8 pages. He, he.)
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!!!

Our 'Thank You' cards to all those who helped make our wedding possible. I made a couple. One for the wedding party and one for the musicians and church staff!!

These "Thank You" cards contained some of our engagement photos

Thank you to flower lady! LOVED our bright flowers!!

Thank you for all our friends in our wedding party!

Okay, so there's a lot more *giggle* but I think you get the idea!!! Now you have a taste of my love for weddings:)

My question to you... Was there a wedding you've been to that has blown you away? Do share!!!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Oatmeal Buttermilk Cinnamon Pancakes

Oatmeal Buttermilk Cinnamon Pancakes for my birthday!!!
makes 20 pancakes
(recipe found on Kitchen

My husband made me bday pancakes!! So good!!
Let me tell you...these pancakes are a little taste of heaven. OMG! It was my bday this week and Karl got up extra early (which tells me a lot because this guy loves to sleep) and made me pancakes.

AND not just ANY pancakes...semi-healthy pancakes!! What a guy. I'm one lucky gal! Oh, and they kept us full for hours!

2 cups rolled oats
3 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 large free-range organic eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
melted butter for brushing griddle
additional maple syrup for drizzling (umm, we used Nutella, flaxseed, whip cream and fresh raspberries for our toppings!!!)

1. Stir oats into 2 cups buttermilk in a medium bowl and let stand, overnight, covered and chilled.

2. Preheat oven to 225 F

3. Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt until combined well. Stir in remaining 1 cup buttermilk, eggs, and maple syrup into oat mixture, until just combined. Stir in dry ingredients until just blended but still lumpy.

4. Brush a large non-stick skillet or cast iron griddle with a little butter and heat over moderately high heat until droplets of water scatter over the griddle. Pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4-cup measures and cook pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until golden, brushing the griddle with some of the melted butter as necessary.

5. Transfer pancakes as they are cooked to a sheet pan and keep warm in the preheated oven. Serve pancakes topped with real maple syrup.

Only 170 calories every two pancakes!!! 7 grams of protein too!

Karl's reaction: "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" *chews* "Damn...these are good."

My reaction: Holy cow!!! These are awesome!! These seem like they should be naughty!! Oh man...feed me more!

Best husband of the year award goes to Karlos Koester!! See pic below. Isn't he cute?

Karl slaving over pancakes before 7 a.m.

Tomato Couscous

Tomato Couscous
serves 4
(recipe found in Good Housekeeping May 2011)

Tomato Couscous
1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed), finely chopped
12 oz. green beans, trimmed
1 c. Israeli (pearl) couscous
1 pt. grape tomatoes
1/2 c. pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 c. packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 lemon
2 TBS Champagne vinegar
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
1 can (15 oz) no-salt-added pinto beans, rinsed, drained

1. In a small bowl, cover sun-dried tomatoes with hot water. Let stand.

2. Heat large covered saucepot of water to boiling on high. Fill large bowl with ice and water. Add green beans to boiling water. Cook 4 to 5 minutes or until crisp-tender; transfer to ice water. When cool, drain well. Cut into 1-in. pieces.

3. Cook couscous as label directs. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.

4. Meanwhile, cut grape tomatoes in half and chop olives and parsley.

5. Into large bowl, from lemon, grate 1 teaspoon peel; squeeze 2 tablespoons juice. Stir in vinegar, oil, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground pepper. Drain sun-dried tomatoes well; stir into mixture. Add beans, couscous, grape tomatoes, olives, parsley, and 1/4 tsp each salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir until well mixed.

6. Obviously you can see I used edamame beans instead of the green beans...cuz, I accidently ate all the green beans the day before. So I have a bit of an obession with them. I don't know what it is... ANYWAY, I really thought the edamames were great in the mix and would cook it this way again!

Karl's reaction: "Wow! I really like this babe. Nice! Real nice."

My take: This is one of my faves for sure. And I will be making this again.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My favorite local wine of the month

Delicious local red wine I'm sipping right now

When I first started drinking wine, I loved Riesling.  So much so that my mom had to go out and get me a cool Riesling picture for our living room from Kohl's. (She's seriously the best.) Then I jumped over to loving even sweeter whites. Enter Moscato.

Then we got married and gave everyone in our wedding bottles of Cab Sauv from Matthew Fox (they were seriously $2.99 but REALLY good. Of course I had to make labels for everyone too - see sample below!!!) Then I started to dig Pinot Noir and Shiraz. The list goes on. Then we went to Greece and went to a winery there. And South Africa (hello Pinotage). Then California (Temecula and headed north through San Fran and had a private tour with Jake Fetzer). So I decided I love wine, period!

A local liquor store started offering FREE wine tastings every Friday and Saturday, so Karl and I go and usually buy a bottle every week. As you can guess, our wine rack is overflowing. During the colder months, I realized I jumped back into liking whites a lot. Now, as it gets warmer, I'm digging reds. So weird. My poor palette is all mixed up.

Last weekend on the way back from Karl's parent's cabin, we stopped at Winehaven. It's a local winery in Chisago, Minnesota. There were over 20 wines to sample. All GOOD wines, I might add. I recommend going there and trying them all. And better yet, it's all FREE sampling.

Anyway, we ended up buying a red. I don't know what it is about this wine, but I LOVE it. It reminds me of eating grapes off the vine. It's sweet but dry, and just awesome. I highly recommend trying it and let me know what you think!! Below is the description on the tasting sheet!

Deer Garden Red
A semi-sweet wine with bright cherry aromas and flavors. One-of-a-kind from our patented Chisago grapes! Silver Medal Winner 2011.

One of the wine labels I made for our entire wedding party!

Beef Ragu

Beef Ragu
serves 6
(recipe found in Good Housekeeping May 2011)

Beef Ragu

Salt and pepper
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb lean (93%) ground beef
1 lg carrot, finely chopped
1 lg. stalk celery, finely chopped
1 sm. onion (4 to 6 oz), finely chopped
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
Pinch crushed red pepper
1 can (28 oz) no-salt added-fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 pkg (13.25 oz) whole-grain penne
1 c. packed fresh mint leaves, chopped

1. Heat covered 6-quart pot of water to boiling on high. Add 2 tsp salt.

2. In 12-in. skillet, heat oil on high. Add beef in even layer. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook 2 minutes or until browned; stir, breaking into pieces.

3. Add carrot, celery, and onion. Cook 5 minutes or until tender and golden, stirring occasionally. Add cumin, coriander, and red pepper. Cook 30 seconds, stirring. Stir in tomatoes; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to maintain steady simmer. Simmer 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, add penne to boiling water. Cook 1 minute less than minimum time label directions. Drain, return to sauce pot. Stir in tomato cause, cook on medium 2 minutes or until pasta is al dente and well coated, stirring. Stir in mint and 1/4 tsp each salt and black pepper.

Karl's reaction: "What kind of green stuff is that? Kinda tastes like a mojito. I like it though."

My take: I liked this. I would make it juicier though. It might have been a titch to dry for my taste.
The goodness!! (I used a different pasta to clean out the pantry!)

Tarragon-Citrus-Crusted Salmon

serves 4
(Recipe found in Good Housekeeping May 2011)

1 lemon
3 navel oranges
1TBS Dijon mustard
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
1 seedless (English) cucumber, cut in half and thinly sliced
8 oz very thinly sliced red cabbage (about 4 c.)
1/4 c panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 TBS packed fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped, plus leaves for garnish
4 pieces skinless center-cut salmon fillet (4 oz. each)
4 tsp. fat-free plain Greek yogurt

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line jelly-roll pan with foil. From lemon, grate 1 tsp peel and squeeze 3 TBS juice. From oranges, grate 1 1/2 tsp peel; set aside. Cut off peel and white pith from oranges and discard. Cut oranges into 1/2-inch thick slices. Arrange orange slices, slightly overlapping, in center of prepared pan.

2. In large bowl, stir together Dijon oil, sugar, lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp salt. Add cucumber and cabbage; toss to coat. Set aside.

3. In a small bowl, stir together lemon peel, orange peel, panko, green onions, tarragon, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground pepper.

4. Arrange salmon on orange slices, skin side down; spread 1 tsp yogurt on each fillet. Top with panko mixture, pressing gently to adhere.

5. Bake salmon 10 to 13 minutes or until opaque throughout. Transfer fillets with orange slices to 4 plates; garnish with tarragon leaves. Serve with cabbage mixture.

Karl's reaction: "Mmm...this is different. Mmmm...not sure about this one."

My take... Well, I definitely overcooked the salmon. The pieces I used were too big and didn't cook properly. So I kept sticking back in the oven. I cooked for 20+ minutes because it was so goopy pink inside. Buuuut, I guess I'd rather have that than overcooked. I'd try again. And if you make this, let me know how it turns out. The cabbage mixture was REAL good though!!
Salmon dinner (before oven). Looks kind of pretty!!

My fave part! The cabbage salad!