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.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Super Cute, Creative Baby Gifts - Month 9

38 weeks

Totally loving these gifts from the heart...

Karl and I have received some really awesome, creative baby gifts for Baby Koester since finding out we're expecting. Three of which we just received recently. I would love to go through every awesome gift, but since these just came about, I wanted to share!

Check out this incredible quilt made by Donna Shay. I grew up across the street in Illinois from the Shay's. My mom and Donna were pregnant the same time - my mom with me and Donna with Heather (Shay) Velasquez! Heather and I spent many days playing and still remain friends, even with a lot of miles between us. You can imagine my surprise when I got home from work this week and saw a package out front. I couldn't believe my eyes when I opened up the quilt. It is PERFECT! It matches the nursery great!
Adorable quilt made by Donna Shay

A coworker had left a box at my desk. I wasn't sure what it was but I opened it and found a beautiful (and very kind of colors) afghan inside. She said she spent about a month working on it. I couldn't believe it. In the bottom corner there was a cute tag that said, "Made by Alura Smith." Totally cool!
Afghan made by Alura Smith

I met up with my friend Meegan at Olive Garden a couple weeks ago. She's a mom to four little ones and is incredibly awesome (great setter in volleyball too). She had spent many hours working on this amazing awesome step stool for Baby K's nursery. We totally love it because it goes perfect next to our little zebra friend!
Awesome step stool made by Meegan Saucedo

We have such awesome friends. Feeling so lucky these days. Thanks to everyone for just BEING YOU and for BEING THERE for us:)

Grilled Venison Loin Dinner

Karl's Secret Grilled Venison Loin Dinner
serves 4
recipe from a family friend
A nice low-fat dinner on the grill

Thaw venison
Let soak in marinade 6-8 hours in a Zip lock bag

2-4 TBS Olive Oil
2 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBS worcestershire sauce
2 tsp garlic powder
1 finely chopped small onion
1 TBS black pepper
3 heaping TBS brown sugar
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup

Throw meat on grill.
Don't overcook (internal temp should be 135 degrees). Needs to be pink.
Sit for 3-4 minutes then slice

Karl's reaction: "This is pretty good. A little dry and overdone. Marinade is really awesome and can be used on other meats. Yum."

My take: Still acquiring a taste for wild game, but I did eat it and liked it a lot! When Karl is cooking, I'm happy!

"Better than Sex" Chocolate Nutella Cupcakes

“Better than Sex” Chocolate Nutella Cupcakes
serves 16
recipe adapted from Cupcake Project and Chockylit
I never bake and this turned out SOOO good.

1/2 C butter, room temperature
1 1/4 C sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 C flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 C milk
1 t vanilla

 Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter until softened and smooth. Add sugar and beat for a few minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each until well combined.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. In a separate small bowl, combine milk and vanilla.

Add about 1/3 of dry ingredients to butter and sugar and mix until combined. Add about 1/2 of wet ingredients to mixture and mix until combined. Continue alternating dry and wet, mixing in between (finish with the remaining dry ingredients).

Fill cupcake tins about 1/2 full (don’t overfill – you only need 1/2) and bake for around 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. They will come out flat.

Nutella Buttercream

1/2 C butter, room temperature
1 C Nutella
1 C powdered sugar, sifted
1-2 T milk
Beat butter until smooth. Add Nutella and beat together until thoroughly combined. Slowly add powdered sugar, mixing until combined. Add 1 tablespoon of milk. Add additional milk or powdered sugar as needed to reach desired consistency.

Karl's reaction: "These are pretty good! Kind of dry but I'll be eating these for sure. The frosting is amazing."

My take: I ate a lot of these. Not ashamed. LOVE Nutella!!!

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

A recipe I had to try

King Ranch Chicken Casserole
serves 8 to 10
recipe found on

This recipe keeps showing up on my email so I thought I'd give it a whirl.
Good flavor!

1 (4 1/2- to 5-lb. ) whole chicken (I bought a rotisserie chicken)
2 celery ribs, cut into 3 pieces each
2 carrots, cut into 3 pieces each
2 1/2 to 3 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped1  medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
2 (10-oz.) cans diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican-style chili powder*
3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
12 (6-inch) fajita-size corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch strips

1. If applicable, remove giblets from chicken, and reserve for another use. Rinse chicken.
2. Place chicken, celery, carrots, and salt in a large Dutch oven with water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 50 minutes to 1 hour or until chicken is done. Remove from heat. Remove chicken from broth; cool 30 minutes. Remove and reserve 3/4 cup cooking liquid. Strain any remaining cooking liquid, and reserve for another use.
3. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 6 to 7 minutes or until tender. Add bell pepper and garlic, and sauté 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in reserved 3/4 cup cooking liquid, cream of mushroom soup, and next 5 ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes.

4. Skin and bone chicken; shred meat into bite-size pieces. Layer half of chicken in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Top with half of soup mixture and 1 cup Cheddar cheese. Cover with half of corn tortilla strips. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining 1 cup cheese.

5. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes to 1 hour or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

*1 tsp. chili powder and 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper may be substituted for Mexican-style chili powder.

Quick-and-Easy King Ranch Chicken Casserole: Substitute 1 (2-lb.) skinned, boned, and shredded deli-roasted chicken for whole chicken, 3 cups coarsely crumbled lime-flavored white corn tortilla chips for corn tortillas, and 3/4 cup chicken broth for cooking liquid. Omit celery, carrots, and salt. Prepare recipe as directed, beginning with Step 3.

Karl's reaction: "Tortillas have a nice crispness. I don't dislike it but I think this is just average. Would have been better with Frito's."

My take: I actually liked this. I think it had too much spice for Karl or something. Kind of a pain to put together though.

Sweet Mustard Chicken Thighs

Easy grill recipe

Sweet Mustard Chicken Thighs
serves 4
recipe found on
So easy to make and really tasty!

1/2 cup prepared mustard
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 (3-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Cooking spray

I didn't have allspice so I mixed in some Ginger and Nutmeg and that seemed to do the trick. I also mixed yellow mustard and some fancy whole wheat mustard I had in the fridge.

I also bought red bell peppers and a red onion and a sweet potato. My intention was to get these on the grill too but we didn't have enough time. So I cut up red onion and bell peppers and roasted them in the oven with olive oil. Turned out great!

1. Prepare grill.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well. Reserve and set aside 1/4 cup sauce mixture.

3. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Brush half of remaining 1/2 cup sauce mixture over one side of chicken. Grill chicken 3 to 4 minutes. Turn chicken over; brush with remaining half of sauce mixture. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until done. Place chicken on a serving platter; drizzle with reserved 1/4 cup sauce mixture.

Karl's reaction: "Double yum! This sauce could go on pork too!"

My take: So easy to make! I could eat this once a week for sure.