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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pregnancy Workbook Questions and Answers - Month 8

33 weeks
This week your baby weighs a little over 4 pounds (heft a pineapple) and has passed the 17-inch mark. He's rapidly losing that wrinkled, alien look and his skeleton is hardening. The bones in his skull aren't fused together, which allows them to move and slightly overlap, thus making it easier for him to fit through the birth canal. These bones don't entirely fuse until early adulthood, so they can grow as his brain and other tissue expands during infancy and childhood. (

Bumpin out!

My insurance provider sent me a workbook at the beginning of my pregnancy. I really like it a lot, but I realized I haven't really answered any of the questions in it and thought it would be fun to do on my blog so I can look back on it as well...maybe in my second pregnancy and see how much I've changed (and have grown)! Here are some of the questions in no particular order...

What does balance look like to you? How do you define healthy? Where are you in balance? Where do you see opportunities for personal growth?
Ahh, balance. Bottom line, to me balance is feeling happy where I'm at in the present moment - almost a calm state where life feels weightless - where I'm surrounded by joy. I tend to teeter back and forth between feeling carefree and happy to feeling like I'm carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I have a lot of people pulling me in many directions, asking me to be places or to do things for them. I'm involved in a lot. I have realized if I say "no" when I want to, I should! I don't need to feel guilty and I shouldn't for saying "no" to someone. It's OK.

However, I tend to ignore that inner voice and take on a lot, not to mention acquire the emotions that go with it all. I'm a people pleaser. I then feel like a chicken with my head cut off because I'm pushing my own stuff aside to do things for others. But I feel like that's what I should be doing, otherwise I'm viewed as selfish. If that makes sense? When I have more time for myself and do the things I really want to do, I'm happiest and healthiest. I have more time to exercise, relax, cook healthy meals, spend time with loved ones. And then I feel like my life is on track - I feel balance! I feel energized! I need to put myself first to really feel happy. Took me until my thirties to figure that one out.

What does it mean to have a healthy pregnancy?
A healthy weight gain, a good amount of energy, good mental attitude and a healthy baby growing inside. If I'm happy, I feel healthy! If I'm healthy, I'm happy.

What special concerns do you have about your pregnancy?
Sometimes I worry about the food I consume. Such as, am I getting enough fish and nutrients? Am I eating too many pesticides, hormones or mercury?? Did I microwave too much plastic and cause chemicals to leak to baby? I also think about the pain associated with baby coming out. I really don't know what to expect either after baby comes out. How will I do with little sleep? And breast feeding. Will I have the patience? Can I do it?

How do you feel about this pregnancy?
Honestly, I've been scared for most of it. Yes, of course I want to be a mother and I was SO excited when we found out, but at the same time I have loved my carefree life so much. I think this is why it took us longer to start trying. We just really wanted to live our life up as much as we could. I've had so much fun doing my own thing on my own time and seeing the world and spending all this time with Karl. Just the two of us. Yet, I know life is about to change in a BIG way. And in a REALLY good way. The closer we get to "birth" day, I get very excited for this change because deep down I know it's for the better and I need it...and I WANT it. Who wants to keep doing the same thing forever - life would get awfully boring that way! This baby is going to change our world in a way I'm pretty sure no words or advice can prepare us for. And I already have this crazy love for the baby I can't quite describe. It keeps getting stronger and stronger. Like I can't believe this is ours... Blows my mind.

What are your thoughts surrounding being pregnant, your health or your future?
The gaining weight part has been difficult because I've worked so hard most of my life to stay fit and in shape. As I gain weight, I feel like I'm becoming unhealthier... But according to my doctor and nurses and everyone who weighs me and takes my blood pressure, I'm on track and uber healthy. I worry it's going to take a lot of work to get it all off. And I won't get to enjoy ice cream as much. Darn! I do notice I allow myself that second or third cookie. Naughty!

What emotions are you experiencing at this time? Do your emotions change from day to day? What do you think about these changes?
There's worry. Lots of worry. Some fear. For example, I don't know how I'm going to be good at both parenting and working. People do it all the time though. Then there's excitement. Then anxiety again. All sorts of emotions. Yes, the emotions do change. For example, I was sitting in church last Wednesday and this calm washed over me and I thought to myself, "I'm ready. I can do this! This is going to be awesome!"

Knowing how your body works and knowing your limitations, how are you going to design your exercise routine while pregnant?
I've been fortunate to have had a personal trainer throughout my entire pregnancy. I played volleyball through 22 weeks. Exercise is my happy pill. I need it. My doctor says since I've been active most of my life, I can continue to do whatever I want. So I do. And it's been great! Yes, I've had to slow down some, but I swear it feels so good to sweat.

What changes have you noticed in your pregnancy? What challenges are you facing?
Weeks 6-9 were pretty tough (the up and down emotions and feeling nauseous in the morning), but after those few weeks I have felt pretty great. The heavier I get, I'm more out of breath and slower than normal. I don't like that. I can't imagine having this weight on me all the time. I've noticed things that I used to fret over or things I used to worry about really aren't THAT big of a deal. Material things don't seem to matter. Drinking isn't the fun thing to look forward to on the weekends. I have a hard time relating to people who are still caught up in all that stuff. And I've realized I need to let things go more. Challenges: Trying to do it all and also knowing I can't do it all. Who cares if there is dust and weird rims of whatever in the toilet bowl.

How familiar are you with signs and symptoms of preterm labor?
Not really familiar at all. I have no idea what to expect... Really.

Are you getting a hospital tour?
Yes! The second week in March! Taking a labor class too. I'm pretty excited about this class.

Where do you feel tension in your body?
I get crazy leg cramps and my bladder area always feel tight and heavy! I notice I can do stair climber and elliptical fine, but when I walk fast, my bladder area hurts! It's harder to get up out of my chair at work. My behind hurts my tailbone. I think it's just because it's not used to holding up this much weight.

What gives you energy? What takes you away from your energy?
Working out!! Being outside! Eating super healthy. Laughing. Sometimes just relaxing on the couch helps! Reading a book. Blogging my thoughts. Writing. Being on a beach somewhere fabulous. And then stress takes me away from it all. And there is stress. I wish I was better at controlling it.

How are you getting to know your baby? What have you noticed about his or her movement, habits, preferences and cycles?
I talk to the baby a lot at night. I rub my belly and ask him/her questions. I wonder who he/she is going to become and how he/she is going to be. Baby moves a lot between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Also, when I eat chocolate, ice cream and spicier foods. Karl says he can feel the baby move during the night, but I don't because I'm knocked out! I've been pretty lucky that I've been able to sleep so well. I also feel connected to the baby during church services. I feel extra grateful and fortunate during this time. The music plays and baby moves and I feel like something close to a miracle is happening inside me...and I get to experience it. I'll never take that for granted.

Do you have any anxiety or fear surrounding the birth process?
Ummmmm...yes. But I can't say I dwell on it. I know it's going to hurt. I've accepted the fact it's going to be tough. But, I'm also excited for the story - our story - and I can't wait to share it (leaving out all the juicy parts of course). Women give birth all the time! If they can do it, so can I. My body was designed for this.

How do you envision yourself as a parent?
I want to mirror my mom in many ways. She was/is an amazing mom. All she did was love us to the point where it was so obvious I knew it and felt it. I never had to question that, and that really is a comforting feeling. I feel so sad when I realize not everyone had this. My mom was so attentive and gave us so much attention...and was consistent. She was so involved. Yet, she never was our best friend. I believe you need to know who the parent is. I worry because I have to work full-time so that means I won't be as good because she had a lot of time to devote to us every day. I have to trust everything will work out though.

What values do you want to share with child or children?
Good manners. Believe in and love God and yourself. Have a strong faith. Always be nice to those around you (because more than likely you'll run into them again in your lifetime). I want our child to have a strong sense of self-worth, a positive attitude, a great personality and confidence in himself/herself and his/her decisions. And the ability to dream and chase them. The sky is the limit. And I want him or her to know our love will never ever run out, no matter who he/she wants to be or become. Oh, and to laugh at himself/herself too. Life isn't meant to be taken so seriously. Be happy. Life is so precious. I also want baby to see how much Karl and I love each other. I think that's important. I remember my mom and dad having those loving moments and how warm I felt. My dad would chase my mom around the house until she kissed him. It was great. Yes, they'd fight and we were also able to see how they resolved issues - they didn't shut us out. I think anxiety in kids stems from a tense, stressful household...or the type of household where everyone pretends everything is OK when it's not. Kids are smarter than we think.

If you could share anything from your experience of pregnancy, what would you tell him or her?
I may have been scared out of my mind, but love trumps all that. Truly you are a miracle in my eyes. Our miracle. Oh, and I can't WAIT to meet YOU!!!! Just don't cry a lot...okay? :) Though, I'm pretty sure I'm going to bawl my eyes out when I meet you.

What steps do you need to take order to live your vision of yourself as a parent? Is there anything you need to heal? Is there anything you want more of in your life?
A flexible work schedule. More freedom. Less stress. For Karl and I to work together as a team and to love each other forever and ever so baby can feel it and see it! Get-away vacations to tropical destinations:) Date nights with Karl. My parents and Karl's parents to be involved. I frickin' LOVE my grandparents.

How do you envision your labor and delivery?
I envision working out on the stair climber and my water breaking. I get to the hospital and baby is born...pain free. And Karl is crying. And then I'm crying and the whole moment is amazing. For real. See, this is how twisted my brain is.

What fears do you have about giving birth? About becoming a parent?
Birth: Something going wrong. Parent: Something horrible happening to our child...the unthinkable. I can't even allow myself to go there because it makes me shiver.

Soooo what do you think? Am I cray-cray?

The good for which we are born into this world is that we may learn to love
- George MacDonald

Broccoli Pork Stir-Fry

Easy Chinese Dish with lots of flavor!
serves 3
recipe found in Cooking for 2
Easy Chinese dish that tastes delicious!

1 (3 ounce) package pork ramen noodles
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2/3 cup cold water
1 1/2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon white vinegar
4 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 pound pork tenderloin, thinly sliced
6 large fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup fresh broccoli florets
1/2 cup julienned sweet red pepper
3 green onions, sliced (white parts only)

1. Set aside 1 teaspoon of seasoning from seasoning packet (discard remaining seasoning or save for another use). Break noodles into small pieces and place in a microwave-safe dish; add warm water. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, garlic powder, pepper flakes and reserved seasoning. Stir in the cold water, soy sauce and vinegar until smooth; set aside.         
3. In a large skillet or wok, heat oil; stir-fry pork and mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add broccoli and red pepper. Stir-fry for 4-5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender and pork is no longer pink. Stir cornstarch mixture and stir into skillet. Add noodles and onions. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.               

Karl's reaction: "Well, well...well...what do we have here? Is someone cooking with my favorite ramen noodles? Ohhh, this is good stuff babe. I think I need seconds!"

My take: A little salty, but I loved all the fresh veggies! Very good. I was craving Chinese and I knew this was a healthier route. Not too hard to make either!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rich and Creamy Tortellini

Rich and Creamy Tortellini
serves 6
recipe found in Taste of Home, June/July 2011
Yummy Italian goodness

My grandma had a ton of cooking magazines sitting on her couch when we were visiting earlier this month. There were a ton of awesome recipes so I'll be cooking lots!

  • Cook a 9 oz package of refrigerated cheese tortellini according to package directions.
  • I also cooked sweet Italian sausage and added to the recipe for more protein.
  • In a saucepan, saute 2 minced garlic cloves in 4 tsp. butter for 1 minute.
  • Stir in 4 1/2 tsp. flour; slowly add 1 cup of milk and bring to a boil.
  • Add 15 oz. jar of marinara sauce, 4 oz. cubed cream cheese, 2 sliced green onions, salt and pepper.
  • Cook and stir until cheese melts.
  • Serve over tortellini.

Karl's reaction: "Nice and fluffy babe. I like."

My take: I know this isn't the healthiest but I really liked. I guess it's better than going to Olive Garden...

Seared Skirt Steak with Balsamic Cherry Tomatoes

Easy Steak Salad
serves 4
recipe found in Women's Health January/February 2011
Yummy steak salad with loads of flavor!

2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 TBS balsamic vinegar
4 cups arugula
12 oz skirt or flank steak
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper, to taste
I added feta crumble too

1. Heat the oil in a cast-iron or stainless-steel pan (or grill pan) on medium high. When the pan is very hot, season the steak with a few pinches of salt and pepper and add it to the pan. Cook the steak for 3 to 4 minutes a side, until it's caramelized and slightly firm to the touch. Remove it to a cutting board.

2. While the steak rests, lower the heat to medium and add the tomatoes and garlic to the pan. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the garlic is lightly browned. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for 2 more minutes, until the skins of the tomatoes start to split. Remove the pan from the heat; add salt and pepper.

3. Slice the steak thinly against its grain. Divide the arugula between two plates, top each pile with the steak slices, and pour on the tomatoes and pan drippings.

Karl's reaction: "It's OK. I just have a thing with cherry tomatoes..."

My take: I thought this was excellent. Easy. Tasty. HEALTHY!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Baby Shower #3 - Month 8

32 weeks!
By now, your baby weighs 3.75 pounds (pick up a large jicama) and is about 16.7 inches long, taking up a lot of space in your uterus. You're gaining about a pound a week and roughly half of that goes right to your baby. In fact, she'll gain a third to half of her birth weight during the next 7 weeks as she fattens up for survival outside the womb.
Can you guess who got a hold of the camera? Picture taken by Karl...duh!

OK...this was one heck of cool, thoughtful baby shower. Karl's mom (my mother-in-law Judy) wanted to have a shower and invite all her neighbor ladies who are also in a book club together. They even read a book by Sophie Kinsella, Shopaholic & Baby in honor of me (this was seriously my kind of shower). Judy and her neighbor Angela decided to plan something for us on a weeknight that would be fun. Boy...did they ever. I'm still blown away by the awesomeness of this shower.

Judy and I walked over to Angela's house. Jim (father in law) and Karl soon followed. My mouth dropped when we walked in. Angela spends a lot of time in Amsterdam (she's a flight attendant) and her house shows this. Everything was so modern and put together. From the bottles of water glowing, to the wine (there was a special non-alcoholic wine from IKEA set up just for me) to the entire special Amsterdam cheese spread to the decor, I couldn't even believe it. I was blown away.
The appetizers were insane!!! All brought in from Amsterdam.
Yes, this glowed a really cool shade of blue! Way to make water interesting (and cool)!
A little wine station in the corner. That's my wine chilling on ice. WOW!
The table set up perfectly! Can't forget the tulips! Lots of fresh tulips!!!

Then Judy added her personal touch to the shower. These are the cutest things ever!
Me and Judy and her diaper cake!!! Look at all those diapers!

This awesome baby carriage is back! So yummy!!!!

Then we sat around and played some fun games. I still have yet to play the same two games at my showers. The first game I had to decide which traits I want baby to have... Either Karl's traits (hair color, driving skills, ears (duh!), chin, nose, sense of humor, etc.) or if I want baby to have mine. That was fun. Then everyone had to guess who I'd pick. Karl of course won AGAIN. He dominates at these baby shower games.

In the meantime it began to snow... a lot...
Snowing on February 20

The second game was a little like Scattegories (one of my fave games). We had three minutes to come up with boy names that began with a C and girl names that began with a K. Then we read them off. If anyone had the same, we had to cross off the names. There were some fun creative names like KeeKee. I actually liked a bunch of them and might have to use one or two.

As Angela and Judy put dinner together, I sat around and talked to a lot of the neighbors. They are the coolest women ever! I'm not kidding. I'm getting so used to everyone sharing their horror stories with me, but these woman kept telling me how awesome motherhood is going to be. I could just tell how much they LOVE being moms and how becoming a mother changed their lives for the better. I knew they were good moms! I SO needed a night like last night.
Listening to all the cool, fun stories of motherhood!

Can you guess how many gummy bears are in this bottle?
An amazing Greek salad. I'm telling you...dinner was awesome!
After dinner, Angela poured everyone an after dinner drink (from South Africa)

After eating a delicious meal of baked pasta, Greek salad, garlic bread and fruit. Angela opened a bottle of this awesome liquor we drank in South Africa!!!!!! I even had a sip! Then the dessert came out. Yeah, there was EVEN more food!!
awesome cheese cake and strawberries. Hellloooo!!!

Then it was time for the gifts! Angela first handed over a photo book covered in cute little African animals to match the nursery. In the photo book was an ultrasound pic of baby Koester and then all the women wrote a piece of advice for me, which was the BEST EVER!!!!!!! Next to their advice was a card full of money. Jeesh!!!!!!!!!
Everyone's advice was spot on! Love love love this!

Then Angela handed over a bag full of goodies. The first bag was a diaper bag full of baby items we'll be using. And then...the best part. BOOKS!!!!!!! Lots and lots of books!!! Like...The Giving Tree!!!
Cutest diaper bag with African finger puppets!!!

Then Judy gave me her gift! She's spent almost an entire year knitting a beautiful blanket for Baby Koester!!!!!!! The blanket is GORGEOUS!!!!!
A beautiful blanket made by my mother in law - Baby K is going to LOVE it!

I can't even thank these women enough for the fun evening, and my mother-in-law and Angela for all the work they did putting it together. The night was soooo meaningful and special. Made me wish Karl and I lived in a neighborhood with super cool people. But most importantly it made me see that I can't go into this alone - people WANT to help and I need to accept that help. Amazing friendships bloom that way! I am just getting so excited for everything!!!!!! Thank you! Thank you!!!!!

Healthy Dinner in a Pinch

Christie's Concoction
serves 4
recipe found in Christie's head :)
Tasty little dish with lots of veggies

It was Saturday night. I wanted something healthy and didn't have a lot of energy, but thankfully after my morning workout with my trainer, I headed to the grocery store and bought a lot of healthy foods so I could whip something together - problem was I didn't know what I was going to whip together. Karl was ice fishing and it was just me, so I figured I could make something gross and not feel bad about it. Good thing this didn't end up tasting gross!

A pound of Chicken Italian sausage
Two small zucchinis
Baby Bella mushrooms
1 yellow squash
Fresh dill
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
Handful of whole wheat spaghetti noodles
Parmesan cheese

1. Chop up Italian sausage into bite size pieces and cook in a skillet. Remove from skillet.

2. Add lemon juice, mushrooms, zucchini and squash. Cook until soft and sprinkle with dill.

3. Boil water and add spaghetti noodles.

4. Add spaghetti and meat to veggies in skillet. Mix together. Top with parmesan cheese and serve.

My take: This was great. Easy to make and tasted wonderful. My guess is Karl would want more salt.
Loved this easy dish!

Tasty Banana Bread

Banana Bread
serves 12
recipe found on All

Nice and moist banana bread! Yummmy!

I had a few black bananas lying around the kitchen and a huge craving for banana bread. I spent Sunday morning Googling looking for the best recipe. This one had 4.5 stars out of 5 and over 6700 people commented how much they loved it. So why not try baking it, right?

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.               

3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.               

Karl's reaction: "This house smells SOOO good." Karl walked in from ice fishing. "Ohhh, this is good babe!"

My take: I liked this banana bread a lot. I probably put in more bananas than I needed, and I think I could have used more brown sugar, but still really good!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Growing Belly - Month 8

31 weeks

This week, your baby measures over 16 inches long. He weighs about 3.3 pounds (try carrying four navel oranges) and is heading into a growth spurt. He can turn his head from side to side, and his arms, legs, and body are beginning to plump out as needed fat accumulates underneath his skin. He's probably moving a lot, too, so you may have trouble sleeping because your baby's kicks and somersaults keep you up. Take comfort: All this moving is a sign that your baby is active and healthy. (

Belly is growing at a rapid speed

Sometimes I walk by a mirror and a catch a glimpse of myself and I freeze. Omigod. I have a belly. Like...that is a big belly. There's a baby in there. This is crazy!!! Is that really me? My body? Whoa...

I'm still wearing [some] non-maternity shirts, but I think that's going to be very short-lived as my skin is starting to show under some of my tops. Probably not the classiest look for work apparel. My stretchy work pants from New York & Company are finally getting tight around the waist too. I might have to hang them up soon and invest in some real maternity pants. Sigh.

I survived the evil stomach flu (barely) this past week. It was a rough bug - took about six days to completely feel better and eat again. Poor baby was probably thirsty and starving inside me, but there wasn't much I could do. Karl forced me to drink as many liquids as I could and asked for a temperature update every hour. I called the nurses line twice, which is something I've never done before. I truly thought I was going to die at one point, but all is well now. Thank God. Hopefully that means I won't be getting the flu bug for another ten or so years....

My leg cramps and charlie horses have gone away. Yay! But, instead, the baby is for sure sitting on my bladder. It even hurts to walk, which is the weirdest feeling for me. I did make it through 25 minutes of stair stepper last night and felt like a whole new person afterwards so I was glad I made myself push through. I wonder if I could exercise and deliver at the same time....seems like that would keep my mind preoccupied. All I know is exercise sure makes me sleep better at night.

I've noticed that stress completely knocks me out. I had a real rough day at work on Monday and I could barely keep my eyes open that evening. Trying to do what I can to prevent stress from occurring but sometimes it's out of my control.

Baby is moving quite a bit. I can see an arm or elbow move across my entire belly. Karl says when I'm sleeping, he'll put his hand on my belly and say goodnight to the baby and will get a swift kick. He loves that.

We finally started writing down names for baby, but we haven't settled on any. We feel we need to meet the baby first and see if there's a name that pops in our minds once baby is out in this big world. Not sure if it works that way, but I want to pick a name that fits baby's face and personality.

I wrote a blog for the Star Tribune about all the most recent thoughts I've been feeling. Here's a link to the latest post! A Different Kind of Love.

We spent all last weekend setting up all our new furniture and picking up all the picture frames and heavy objects and papers off the floors and tables in the family, dining room and kitchen. Our house looks like a different place. I'm not sure why we waited so long to do this? Our next focus is the baby's nursery. I was thinking of picking up the crib this week and getting that set up this weekend.

I can't believe there is less than nine weeks to go. I have a feeling these next two months are going to go fast - they will be uncomfortable - but still go fast. Life is about to change in a real big way, isn't it? I still can't fully accept this is happening. I'm going to be a mom. Wow.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Tuna Noodle Casserole
serves 4
recipe found in Better Homes and Garden (May 2008)
Can't forget the potato chips!

3 cups medium noodles (4 oz.)
1 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 - 3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 1/4 cups milk
1 12 ounce can chunk tuna, drained
1/2 cup bottled roasted red sweet peppers, chopped
Potato chips, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In large saucepan cook noodles according to package directions. Drain; return noodles to pan.

2. For sauce, in medium saucepan cook celery and onion in hot butter until tender. Stir in flour, mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Add milk all at once; cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly, whisking to remove any lumps.

3.  Gently fold sauce, tuna, and peppers into noodles. Transfer to lightly greased 1-1/2-quart baking dish. Top with chips. Bake, uncovered, 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand 5 minutes.
I had to add cheese too!

Karl's reaction: "Could use juuuuust a little bit more salt babe."

My take: I felt like this needed a little bit of lemon and some dill or something. Otherwise it was pretty good!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bloom Blog Tour Guest Post (and a recipe!) from Julie Anne Lindsey

Introducing.... Julie Anne Lindsey
A wonderful friend, writer and critique partner

Thank you Christie for having me over to your super lovely blog! This is my very first blog tour and I am so excited. I’m really stoked to be here because you always have the yummiest recipes to share! I wanted to give you my chocolate/peanut butter Buckeye recipe BUT thanks to the snowpocolypse  in Ohio right now, I think something warm and cuddle-up-kins is in order.
Julie's fabulous sweet romance! Great read!!!

My husband’s grandmother makes this soup and she shared the recipe with me when we got married.  My family loves this recipe, and I’ve even made it once or twice when it was way too hot for soup because I craved it! LOL. A good old yum-it-up recipe

Stuffed Pepper Soup

1 ½ pounds of hamburger/turkey burger (whatever your family prefers) ground and browned
2 cans of diced tomatoes (I like the petite diced tomatoes with garlic; sweet onion)
2 cans of water
2 beef bouillon cube
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
½  cup diced onion (I use lots of onions. I love onions!)
1 ½ cup chopped green pepper (I also go crazy with the green peppers)

Brown the ground beef in a soup pot and drain. Add peppers, onions, salt, sugar, bouillon, tomatoes and water and bring to a boil. Then cover and reduce heat. Let it simmer for an hour or so, all day is okay too.

You can adjust the amounts to suit your family’s tastes, but it is delicious any way you mix it! I hope you’ll make a batch tonight and curl up to watch the snow fall!

I also hope you’ll visit Honey Creek if you need a good old country escape. It’s a beautiful place where anything can happen. Kick off your shoes, relax into that porch swing and cuddle up to a steamy mug of soup with my debut novella Bloom! Now taking a trip to Honey Creek is as easy as Amazon : ) See you there!

Bloom by Julie Anne Lindsey

In a town filled with her past, she never expected to find her future…

Seven years ago Cynthia left Honey Creek with a broken heart. Three years ago Mitchell arrived with one.  Now Cynthia’s come home, and these two hardened hearts can’t stop arguing. If they’d only take a break long enough to find some common ground, they might be surprised to find love can grow anywhere.

If they’ll let it, love will find a way to Bloom.

*Bloom is book one in my new Seeds of Love series.  I’ll be planting those seeds all year.

About Julie:

I am a mother of three, wife to a sane person and Ring Master at the Lindsey Circus. Most days you'll find me online, amped up on caffeine & wielding a book.
The Great Julie Anne Lindsey!

You can find my blogging about the writer life at Musings from the Slush Pile

Tweeting my crazy at @JulieALindsey

Reading to soothe my obsession on GoodReads

And other books by me on Amazon

Bloom Buy Link

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Baby Shower #2 - Entering Month 8

31 weeks

Minnesota Baby Shower

What an awesome baby shower thrown by my sister-in-law, Kelly and Karl's aunt (and godmother) Janie. I'm overwhelmed right now with all the love and generosity I've received from so many people. We are feeling so blessed and so lucky. Jeez we know a lot of awesome people.
We had quite the spread of food! YUMMY!

Well, I just realized (yes, as I'm putting this post together) the in the shower I was the guest of honor at...started at 10:30, and Karl and I didn't show until 10:45. I'm feeling really cool now. Like as low as scum. Who does that??? For one, I was still battling getting over the stomach flu (yes, it got me good) and haven't totally been all there, but I have never in my life mixed times up like that. What is wrong with me!?!? I feel like such an idiot right now.
Super fun baby shower hosted by Aunt Kelly and Great Aunt Janie
Some of the fabulous guests!

Kelly's place was packed with friends and family and was decorated really great. There were so many cute details everywhere. From two books Kelly bought that said I Love You Daddy and I Love You Mommy with our baby pictures next to them to this cute little baby carriage fruit spread my mother-in-law made to a big diaper cake she put together. All super cool and creative!
I Love You Daddy Book (and a pic of Karl as a baby)
I Love You Mommy Book (and a picture of me)
My mother-in-law, Judy made this cute fruit baby carriage!

Brunch was served and it was delicious! After, we played a couple fun games. One, we had to unscramble a bunch of baby words. I wasn't very good at it. I had maybe three right - Karl got nine right. Then we played a "Price is Right" game where Janie brought out a bunch of items from Target in a bin that baby will use and we had to guess the price of each item. Then we added our totals and determined who came the closest. I guessed a total of $87 and Karl's was around $38. Karl was only about $.75 off. I guess I shop at expensive places.... He won. He's so kicking my butt!!!

Then I began opening gifts. Wow. There were so many! And so many awesome, adorable things. I couldn't believe it. Blows me away every time I start thinking about the time and talents it takes to put some of this stuff together!!!!
Look at this adorable sweater Janie made. WOW! So CUTE!
Kelly's awesome friend Kaisa made the CUTEST burp cloths I've ever seen!
My dear friend Sue Ann shipped out this fab bookshelf for all baby K's books!
Karl's other Godmother, Aunt Susan, made this fun blanket!
Karl's mom kept Karl's blankets and wrapped them up for Baby K

Then I thanked everyone for coming (wishing now I could've explained why I was so late... and apologized ten times over). The shower was a GREAT success. Karl and I couldn't be more excited for the big day!
Me, Karl, Great Grandma Bea, Great Grandma Alice and Grandma Judy
Kelly did an AWESOME job!!!! THANK YOU!

Huge success!!!! Can't wait for the next one! Baby Koester is sure one lucky baby! :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ten Weeks Until the Big Day - Entering month 8

30 weeks

Your baby's about 15.7 inches long now, and she weighs almost 3 pounds (like a head of cabbage). A pint and a half of amniotic fluid surrounds her, but that volume will decrease as she gets bigger and takes up more room in your uterus. Her eyesight continues to develop, though it's not very keen; even after she's born, she'll keep her eyes closed for a good part of the day. When she does open them, she'll respond to changes in light but will have 20/400 vision – which means she can only make out objects a few inches from her face. (Normal adult vision is 20/20.)       

I can't believe it! Ten more weeks! Wow! That's it??? Could be less. Could be more. Seems like time has gone really fast. Doesn't it? But I hear the last two months are also the slowest because they are the most uncomfortable too.
Spending the weekend with Grandpa and Grandma. Looking all chubby!

This past weekend Karl and I (and my older brother) visited my grandparents in Wild Rose. The guys wanted to go ice fishing and I wanted to spend some quality time with the best grandparents ever. My favorite part is they treat Karl like one of their own. I think they have more pictures hanging up of him than they do of me!
I love how towels were set out for us and they call Karl Dr. Fuzzy. LOL.

While the guys were fishing, I went on a quick walk with my grandpa (pretty good for an 85-year-old man whose heart only beats at 35 beats per minute right now) and then to church with my gpa and gma. They're Catholic and as we were leaving church, my grandma dipped her hand in the blessed water and blessed my belly and baby. That was really sweet and meaningful. And my grandpa rubbed my belly too. I felt my eyes fill with tears for a second. But no crying here!

They both predict 'boy'. Grandma thinks baby boy will be born April 12. Grandpa thinks April 18th.

We had a ton of laughs and it's always hard to leave because I never know when I'll see them next. Every time I see them I think this might be the last time. I try to enjoy every last second of being with them. They are such special people and have meant so much to me my entire life. Such wonderful examples of what I want to be like as a grandparent one day.  Even though when we left, my grandpa was sure to remind us that he'll haunt us in our sleep when he dies. Jeez...thanks!

As to how I'm feeling... Pretty good! I can't complain. I had my first episode of bad heartburn yesterday. I thought I was coming down with the stomach flu (didn't tell my husband that since he fears puke) but realized after I took some Calmicid (Melaluca), I felt better. Duh, I was probably suffering from heartburn. Great. Then I received an email saying heartburn was about to enter my life from now until baby is born. Yipppeee. Let's hope not! I'm going to try eating smaller meals.

Ever since I was told I could sleep on my back, I've been sleeping pretty good! I still have my moments when I wake up to use the bathroom and can't fall asleep right away. Sometimes I feel like I've slept 12+ hours and need to get up and organize the nursery at 3 a.m. Kind of messed up. I'd say I'm going to the bathroom 4-6 times a night. But keep in mind this is kind of normal for me. I go on average probably 3 times during the night, pregnant or not. I must have the world's smallest bladder. My brother calls me Tiny Tanks.

I feel heavier. I don't like that. I'm slow to move and am wondering where the rest of the weight is going to go these next few months...cheeks (both butt and face)...legs...thighs... Sigh.

Digestion issues... Not fun. In short, I have realized how important these things are.

1. Drinking enough water. Take current weight divided by 2...drink that in ounces every day. I've been far from it. But after this weekend, I'll be drinking LOTS more.
2. Eating plenty of vegetables and fruit (for fiber) 
3. Exercise.

All aid in digestion. Trust do not want to be clogged up. No. No. No. 

On our four-hour drive back home I was asking Karl all kinds of questions. I wanted to know what he's most fearful of right now. His response: "Lack of sleep." I guess I felt pretty relieved with that answer because that's my great fear too.

We both decided we really don't know what we are getting ourselves into and what to expect, but we figure we're smart enough to figure things out. And we'll work together to figure things out. So the unknown doesn't worry us so much. We just both love to sleep and need our sleep... And I can't say Karl's ever seen the overly tired Christie. I'm not the nicest person when I don't have enough sleep in me. And I can't see Karl moving any faster when he's extra sleepy...

There are other worries, but that one is our major one. My uncle asked me why I seemed so scared in general. He reminded me it's the circle of life and everything will be fine. It's how it's supposed to be. He's right in a way. Change is good. I noticed now I'm pretty comfortable in my life right now. Go to work, work out, cook, watch some good TV shows. But after awhile, it becomes super routine. I think a good challenge and change up will be good for us. And from now on, life won't really get comfortable. I'm kind of OK with that.

Coming next: Baby Shower #2, Working on our Birthing Plan, Buying the Big Baby Items

Thursday, February 2, 2012

3D Ultrasound at 29 Weeks - Month 7

week 29

The Coolest Gift Ever!

We must thank Karl's parents (big time) for hooking us up with one of the coolest gifts - a 3-D Ultrasound. This was just something cool. Thank you! Thank you! It really was awesome.

Of course, baby was being stubborn once again and wouldn't totally turn his/her face to pose for us! At 20 weeks our ultrasound tech said our baby was the most stubborn baby she's worked with in a long time. At 29 weeks, the tech was having the same troubles. Uh-oh! Is this a sign of what's to come??

Adorable little face!

For a split second I felt something I have never felt in my life. This crazy calm, totally-in-love sort of feeling rush over me once I saw baby on the screen. And that was just for a few pictures! I had to stop and ask myself, "Ummm...what the heck was that emotion???" It was the craziest thing. Kind of freaked me out. Like...a rush of this beyond insane love. Does that make sense?
Our baby already seems pretty cool!

I was getting worried that baby was going to be stubborn, stubborn, stubborn. But all of a sudden we get a thumbs up. And all was well again. I'm thinking this baby is going to be pretty cool.
Look close enough and you can see the eyelashes!!!!

I asked the tech if she could find out how big or small the baby was. After all, I was ten pounds when I was born...did that have any say in how big our baby would be? Dear God, I hope not. At 29 weeks she says baby is about three pounds and ten ounces. That seems big to me already.... Doesn't it???
Some day those feet will be doing lots of walking...and volleyball!!!

At our 20-week ultrasound baby's head was stuck on my upper left side. This time his/her head was down and on my right side. Oh, and if anyone knows me...umm, well, I kind of have this thing about ears. OK...maybe a slight fetish. Karl has the BEST ears ever. They are soft and squishy and he lets me flick them and kiss them. I kept wondering if baby would have my ears or his ears. I'm in luck... Baby has his/her dad's ears!!!! Yesssss!!!

Look at those most perfect ears!!!!

This was by far one of the coolest gifts we've received, thanks to Karl's parents!!! This is definitely something we'll cherish for many years! We are so stinken excited to meet Baby Koester!!!!

Hoping this short little video clip comes through because it's pretty sweet too!!! Baby sticks his/her tongue out at the end!!! Silly lil baby!