Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas

This Christmas, I am extremely grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ. I know he lived a perfect life, and that he was born over 2 millenia ago in a manger in Bethlehem.

I know he is my personal Savior. That he atoned for my sins and that he will plead with God the Father on my behalf for all of the pain, grief, sin and inadequacies that have ever been a part of my life.

I know he lives. I know that we can all come to know him. I have felt a special spirit this Christmas season as I have focused on drawing to him, and I am so grateful for the peace and joy I feel when I follow his example.

Merry Christmas, and may you find the peace, joy and comfort of our Savior this Christmas and through the new year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I may be in love with Justin Bieber. It may have started with his movie Never Say Never. You should see it.

I (somehow) came home with an xbox and kinect on black friday. Oops :)

I am wearing wool leg warmers to work today with a skirt. I mean, a girl is gonna freeze this winter without those. I tried taking them off when I got here to look more professional, which led to further freezing and they came right back on.

I secretly want to become a sharepoint developer/consultant. It is SUCH a useful tool that few people know how to really leverage. I wonder if MS lets you work part time from home.... ??? ha!

I asked Santa for blonde hair in kindergarten. Seriously. He didn't grant me that one.

Very little gets me as jazzed as solving a problem in excel. Or making beautiful powerpoints. No sarcasm here folks. I love MS tools.

I am trying to advert my addiction to cheese grits. I made this recipe from Pioneer Woman about a month ago and almost died of cheesy creamy deliciousness. You should try them if you think you handle it.

This is the first time in years I haven't work 2-3 jobs. Just one. It's great :)

Sometimes I buy things only for their cuteness. John always says..."Kristin, are you buying this just to take a picture of it?". I smile, because too frequently the answer is yes.

I may or may not have bought these candy cane-esque straws purely for cute factor. And this adorable masking tape.

I am a HORRID baker. Cooking... meh I am getting better. But me and baking... we don't fly. Requires using a timer and following the rules (or recipe). Not something I am good at in the kitchen. Some proof here in case I have ever fooled you.

I take on too much CONSTANTLY -- it is my achille's heel. Like trying to handmake these for each of your 10 nieces/nephews before Christmas. Chaos is all that can ever ensue.

What do you need to own up to?

Chicken Shawarma 3 Ways

I have developed a love for Mediterranean food since living in southeast Michigan, near the country's largest middle eastern population. One of my favorite treats is chicken shawarma. We used to eat all the time at a restaurant in town, now we make it at home pretty often. Hope you enjoy as much as I do.

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine the spices with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Rub the spice paste all over the chicken and season with salt. Arrange the chicken on a baking dish. Broil the chicken in the oven for 15 minutes, until the chicken is nearly cooked through. Turn off the broiler and turn down the oven to 425, bake the chicken for another10 minutes, or until done. Cut into strips or shred.

Heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and whisk in the yogurt and lemon juice; season with salt. (When I make this into a salad I skip this step and just eat the yummy chicken sans sauce)

Serve it classic wrap style!
Wrap it up in a pita with cucumber, tzatziki sauce (I do a bit of sour cream, drop of vinegar + dill to make this), feta or goat cheese, and if you are on the wild side add pomegranate molasses.

Make it into a salad!
- Chickpeas
- Lemon Vinaigrette (apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil + salt & pepper)
- Goat or Feta Cheese
- Cucumber
- Romaine Lettuce

(I like putting everything together and then adding the chicken hot (melts the goat cheese and makes it generally very yummy!)

Make it into a salad wrap!
Take the salad from above and load into a pita.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Menu Monday

Here are a few of the items we have eaten recently:

Turkey + Veggie Thai Soup. Taking some leftover turkey, chicken broth, classic chicken soup veggies (celery, onion, carrott), spaghetti noodles + Srirachi Sauce.

Spicy Pork Lettuce Wraps. YUM. Just fry up some ground pork, add a tad of sriarchi sauce and pair with lettuce. We added generous portions of mushrooms and zuchhini after cooking the meat and it was delicious. John made these.

Shawarma Salad This was a miraculous discovery of deliciousness, and a healthier twist on a recipe I already love (Chicken Shawarma Wraps). Posted the recipe here.

Beef & Barley Stew
I make this in my dutch oven and slowly cook beef chunks with all of the classic veggies (carrot, celery, onion, garlic) and rosemary. I add barley towards the end to thicken it up. Is a yummy dish for when it is cold.

Tacos & Taco Salads Mexican food is pretty much a staple in our diet. Frequently we make it with veggies only (bell peppers, onions sauteed a bit) and add black beans or refried beans with lettuce for a salad (+salsa & cilantro). We also have been experimenting with whole wheat tortillas as well as cutting the cheese and sour cream to make it a bit healthier. We have found that as long as you have a flavorful enough salsa-- it is just delish!

We have also done a lot of entertaining lately to celebrate the holidays, I am planning on sharing some of our party recipes in another post. Yumminess includes meatballs, a jalapeno cheese ball, baked brie and a number of sweet tooth experiments.

What are you eating this week? Any recommendations on something yummy you have had lately?

How To Tell You Are a Winner on a Monday

Your colleague says hello to you as he walks to his desk. Then turns back and says..."Gosh, you look really tired for a Monday."

Later that morning, you walk back to your desk after talking to your boss. You start to sit in your roll-y chair and it actually tips over. You try to act totally cool and hope no one realized what the big sound was. But if they do, hopefully they realize how much serious skill it takes to tip a roll-y chair.

This is the same boss who saw you fall down a flight of stairs about a year ago. And the same team that had to catch you as you did a home base like slide on a puddle of water at a restaurant.

Yep. I'm a winner.
Happy Monday All.

Monday, November 28, 2011

On a Health Mission

As some may know, John and I are on a health/weight loss mission right now. We have just let it add up over time and decided that it is the time to stop and get to where we need to be. I have been working out *almost* every morning during the week with two gals and we also have been trying to follow a much more limited diet.

The basics of the diet we are following are:

Whole Grain Bread and Egg OR
Milk and Cereal (we limit the portion)

Small Protein Serving (3-4 oz or less)

Protein Serving
1 serving of a Healthy Starch (think beans, sweet potatoes etc)
Salad & Veggies
1 oz serving of cheese (usually we slice cheddar, is delish)

No butter, sour cream, etc. Limit Oil as much as possible.
Limit Sugar as much as possible. We have tried some fat free sugar free salad dressing.
2 fruits a day. We are primarily using fruits with breakfast or a snack and making sorbet for a dessert.
Unlimited veggies (except for really starchy/sweet veggies like potatoes, corn etc)
1 serving of Fat free popcorn is okay for a snack.

The same time we started this we also began an Eat Out Fast, which I have mentioned.

For exercise I am doing Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred, and just recently her 6 week 6 pack.

It has been a month so far-- We have made exceptions and rules, but generally we have made a lot of progress. We feel good, enjoy what we are eating and are excited to keep pushing on.

However -- I write this post today to help us (really me) re-energize my goals after out little thanksgiving hiatus. It did slow us down a little and I can tell we are slipping back into some not so great habits.

This is my "motivation board" I made in our Family Home Evening last week. I don't have a picture of John's, but his said "Run and not be weary, walk and not be faint" and had pictures of water, veggies, and some of his favorite sports icons. They are hanging on our fridges and reminders of what we want to achieve.

Here's to upward and onward in our health mission!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Turkey Dance - A Family Tradition Continues

My family has an awesome tradition for thanksgiving-- each year the turkey is featured in a song a dance. My dad has done this my entire life... as this is our first thanksgiving away from family and John is now the turkey man, he of course had to continue in the legacy. For your viewing pleasure, the respective turkey dances were captured this year.

Here is my dad's turkey dance:

Here is the inaugural McElderry turkey dance:

What fun traditions did you participate in this Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanks Wikipedia.

Wikipedia (Wikimedia foundation) is having their giving campaign right now. I normally just click ignore to these types of things, but decided to give a little bit this year. I use wikipedia every day and think that knowledge sharing and open access is really important.

Back in the day at school I wrote an extensive paper on Open Learning, studying programs like MIT's Open Course Ware and other open learning programs and the impact they can have on development and learning across the world. While people don't come away with a paper diploma after taking these courses, it is an incredible way to share knowledge. The example that really struck me is a medical school trying to be established in a third world country. What a great resource for building curriculum and training doctors (and many other professions).

I guess the point is, I am a big advocate of social learning and collaboration, and think that Wikimedia's mission to "Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge" is really admirable.

Consider donating if you have the resources or time and also believe in this mission.

Support Wikipedia

Over and Out. Back to our normal broadcasting.

new techie toys: home appliances

So remember when I had that no-good-very-rotten-bad-day?

Well that same week both my blender and vacuum died. As in... would not work at all anymore and required replacement.

And with all bad news... must come some good news. We replaced both with nicer models and are VERY Happy.

We got this fancy Dyson DC-24 (a splurge, we know!) and are loving it. John is determined to vacuum every day until "we get the cat hair under control", ie we don't have to empty the whole cartridge every time we use it. Our first run we filled it for each room in the apartment... strong vacuum or disgusting apartment? You decide.

We stumbled upon a Health Master at Kohls for a great price and snatched it up. It is similar to a vitamix in that it can do more sophisticated blending (nut butters, can boil soups, make ice cream and sorbet). We have been making sorbet virtually every other day with this-- it is so tasty. Also having creamier soups, and hoping to try on hummus soon.

What kitchen or home appliances can you not live without?

P.S. does this post put me in the league with folks who are jazzed about vacuum cleaners for Christmas? YIKES. Adulthood is here. I mean I didn't even see the midnight premiere of breaking dawn!! Life is virtually over*.

*cue sarcasm.

The Men in My Life

These are some fun shots we had taken while in Cancun. I just love the men in my life (my dad and my hubby). I have also loved watching as their relationship has grown since we got married.

My dad always wanted a son. In fact-- he was in total denial when they were picking out girl names when my mom was pregnant with me. He thought surely somehow it would be a boy. If you talk to him now though, he loves being a "ladies man" having three daughters and wouldn't trade it for the world.

He told me a story a few years ago that always makes me laugh. He took a colleague and his two teenage sons out on our boat one day. He said the boys were trying to compete with each other doing all kinds of crazy tricks on the boat and while skiing... it was nuts and he just was in awe of what it must have been like to have sons (he said he couldn't handle it quite frankly!) He said that day that he was definitely supposed to have daughters.

But now that John is in the family, my dad calls all the time to just talk to him. He wants them to go on Man trips together and feels like he has a backup in the chaos that is a house full of women.

I love these two men and am grateful for their example of kindness and love in my life.

Mackinac Island - October 2011

October was a beautiful month. It was unseasonably warm in Michigan, so the second weekend of October we drove up to Mackinac Island. We took a scenic route and drove up the eastern coast... it was stunning.

Such a fun and beautiful drive. I love drives like this. John and I listen to fun music and are completely carefree. This is when we have some of our best conversation.

We camped at Cheboygan state park, you could see Lake Huron from our campsite! It is a really nice park and had very few campers so it was really peaceful too.

Our favorite activity of the trip definitely was riding a tandem bike around the island. We did all of the classic activities (toured the Grand hotel, ate too much fudge, rode in a horse drawn carriage), but nothing was like this bike ride. The views were spectacular and we laughed pretty much the whole way trying to get the knack of a tandem bike.

Michigan is a really stunning state. I love living here-- I am frequently reminded of the wonder of creation seeing such beautiful places so close to home. Here are a few more of my favorites from our trip:

Natural Arch Rock

On the porch of the Grand Hotel. We were there during a Somewhere in Time Reunion. So much fun!

(Mackinac Bridge which connects upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan)

Cancun Trip: Fun Day at Xel Ha

Commence the Cancun trip posts! The same day we went to Tulum, we headed over to Xel-Ha for an afternoon of fun. It is a somewhat enclosed lagoon where the water is a lot calmer and is fun to swim in. We did cliff diving, snorkeled, ate at many of the yummy buffets, and mostly just relaxed. Here are some of my faves:

Does this look like paradise or what? I wish we could have been there longer so I could have enjoyed a nap in a hammock.

Many of the pictures from our trip are courtesy of this guy:

When I was shopping at wally world (wal mart) for some disposable cameras, I found this and it was around $65 (what a deal!) . Takes fairly good pictures and was a ton of fun to have on the trip. We also took some hilarious videos which I may share pending permission from the embarrassed parties (or maybe I share anyway?) lol.

Anyway, we had a great day at Xel-Ha and would recommend it to folks going to Cancun.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Menu Monday

In celebration of eating at home more and my attempts at meal planning, I want to start a new series called "Menu Monday". I can make no promises of frequency, though I hope to post weekly. Would like to include what we ate the previous week and what we plan to eat this week, also hoping for lots of comments on what you are eating lately and any recipe ideas you recommend. Without further ado...

Here is what we ate Last week...

Monday: Pumpkin Soup inspired by this, was more like this but substituting skim milk for cream.

Tuesday: Turkey & Veggie Tacos. (ground turkey w/ taco seasoning, fajita style veggies, whole wheat tortillas, homemade salsa).

Wednesday: FFYS (Fend for yourself). I had a work dinner and John... well he fended for himself.

Thursday: Apple Pear Chicken (something like this with no mashed taters) & Brussel Sprouts

Friday: Pita Pizza & Salad (Whole Wheat Pitas + Tomato Sauce + Toppings. My fave toppings are onion, mushroom, spinach and feta cheese!)

Saturday: Date Night Dinner at Red Robin (so about that diet we are on...)

Sunday: Chicken/Veggie Curry w/ jasmine rice and Dal (lentils). I am not much of a recipe person... I pretty much throw stuff that sounds good together and season until it tastes right. This curry included carrots, zuchinni, squash, a potato, ginger, jalapeno, and garlic cooked with chicken stock, seasoned with curry, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg and thickened with cornstarch/cold water because it was too runny. Was one of the better curries I have made to date.

Week Accomplishments:
- Cooked and ATE two new veggies. Brusell Sprouts and Cauliflower.
- Ate Veggie/Turkey Tacos without cheese or sourcream. With my yummy homemade canned salsa, some cilantro and hot sauce... they are just fine on their own!
- Ordered sweet potato fries and broccoli as sides at red robin. And only ate until we were full. Still a splurge but better than usual!

Menu Plan for This Week:

Monday: Stir Fry Veggies + Potstickers. Inspired by our good friends Abe & Erin who have blessed me with a love of potstickers (or Jiaozi). Eat with Jiaozi Sauce (soy sauce + rice vinegar combo).

Tuesday: Chicken w/ Mushrooms & Zucchini. Love this recipe, got the idea from my friend Beth!

Wednesday: Salads + Pesto Ravioli (quick and easy dinner night, frozen ravioli + pre-made pesto sauce).

Thursday: TURKEY DAY! John is in charge of the bird. I am doing mashed potatoes, my favorite root veggie roast (close to this), pomegranate cranberry sauce, and a pumpkin chocolate cheesecake (going to try this cheesecake recipe and add chocolate chips maybe? not sure yet). We are doing with a progressive Turkey Day with some friends so will have all the other classics too.

Friday: FFYS (Fend for Yourself) with Leftovers.

Saturday: Turkey Tettrazini (lightened up a little... yowza on all that cream cheese and bacon)

Sunday: Turkey Dumplings (like my chicken ones, just like my momma's). And great for a leftover bone.

What are you eating this week? Any recommendations on something yummy you have had lately?

"Eating Out" Fast

John and I have been on an eat out fast for about a month or two now. We are trying to change our attitudes about eating out and reduce how often we eat out (health + cost implications). It has been really good for us and has been enjoyable.

I spent the last year travelling full time and ate out pretty much every meal Mon-Thursday, and then was so exhausted over the weekend I wanted to do anything but cook (and you know, excercise lol). So we ate out a lot over the weekend too. This led to a few more pounds for both of us... being in the red with our food budget each month... and the general expectation that food should be instantaneous (no need to wait when you can get it fast or order appetizers).

So a few weeks after I came home we started our "Eating Out Fast". We have sat our desks bringing our leftovers from the day before while our colleagues went out... we have grabbed food from grocery stores to cook at friends houses when we go straight from work so we don't just grab fast food. We have gotten better at planning menus, controlling our portions so we have enough for lunch, and waiting longer to eat in the evenings.

We do make exceptions.. We have gone out for friend's birthdays. If we have a work dinner (not paid for by us...) we go and try to order something healthy. We went out this weekend on a date to a restaurant-- and it was really special. Not just a hunger frenzied attempt to eat something fast, but a special event where we enjoyed food in one anothers company.

This may not be that big of a deal for some people -- but for us it is huge. Before we were eating out 2-3 times a week. Now we are at 2-3 times a month.Anyway-- hoping to keep up this "food-i-tude" for good, has been a great change for us.

Friday, November 4, 2011

no good rotten very bad day

don't you hate days like that?

I do. Having one as we speak and trying to stay positive. I will whine for a few more minutes and then I am off to do something relaxing that will bring me back up.

1. Have been planning a big meeting at work for about a month. Was today. Slides were ready, team was all set... details were all in line. Did a walk through yesterday via phone with everyone, got there 2 hours early to do a technology run through. And ofcourse technical difficulties came up. Feedback in all of the speakers so that none of our videos could be heard, none of the cool technology we rehearsed and practice beforehand actually worked. And all of the mics gave us those horrid squeaky noises Yep. And as I asked the guy working there what he could do to help me with the sound system he said: "Well, I didn't configure it so I would have to rip out all of the wires and start over." With 200 people in the room actively trying to engage in this meeting at that moment, I decided to just move on without all the fancy prep work and deal. Bummer? Yes. In my control? No.

2. Got home after lots of driving today (meeting was 1.5 hours away), exhausted and turned on the oven. Knew that I had burned something in there other day... but thought it would be fine (you know, that stuff kind of goes away lol). Anyway. Few minutes later I notice a horrid smell and look at my oven and it is SMOKING! Yep. There was a fire in my oven. Real live fire with real live flames. No worries, I googled it (thank you iphone*). Fire was out n a bit, but jeez? That stinks.

3. Few minutes later I jump online and follow a link from facebook for a friend to vote for her kids Halloween costume in a contest online. Yep. And then I get a virus. My computer crashes. I frantically shut down hoping it is all okay. Queue calling company help desk and following their prompts, only to get the blue screen of death. No hope for me. Someone will call me Monday to replace laptop. GAH! So much for working this weekend. Guess I have to tell my boss I DIDN'T finish everything I needed before planned (planning for aforementioned meeting was a ton of work so I was going to have work a bit over the weekend to catch up). Maybe a blessing in disguise? Maybe. Or may be I try to do my excel magic on my hubbys mac (why are ms products so horrid to use on a mac??! lol).

*Did I mention I dropped my iphone this week and the screen completely shattered? The second time this has happened to me? That I had the protective case on and everything this time? That I am not up for an upgrade until next year? Oh yeah. That happened.

BOO! Go AWAY you no good very rotten bad day.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

John-David and I in our costumes! We won funniest costume at our church's halloween party. It was really fun making the costumes and something we enjoyed doing together.

John did the top part (cut out, painted the circles, attached the strings), and I did the costume underneath (made my bow, pencil skirt, hemmed my tshirt to make it fitted, painted our pacman faces on, died his thrift store khakis yellow...) It was fun, I learned some new skills and it was and well worth the effort :)

Happy Halloween!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Recent Projects: Baby Gifts

Some of my absolute favorite craft projects are baby gifts. I love giving homemade baby gifts to friends. Something is just so sweet and innocent about babies, I feel like I get to participate in the wonder, joy and excitement of an expected baby when I make projects for them. So, really they are all made kind of selfishly for the happy feeling/ good baby bliss, but hopefully their momma's like them too :)

Here are some of the baby gifts I have done this past year or so:

Tag Blankets
I have done these for a while... are really fun, quick, and from my understanding babies love playing with and sucking on the tags. A good tutorial is here. Sometimes I quilt these from cute prints, sometimes I use silky fabric, fuzzy fabric... just depends on colors and what sparks my fancy.

Nursing Covers (Sometimes called "Hooter Hiders")

These are for women who are nursing want to make sure they are covered. I found the tutorial to make these from Sew Much Ado.


I went through a softy phase about a year and a half ago. I did highlight my sock monkeys here, but was pretty despondent about the other projects I did.

Clucky the Hen* from Melly & Me

Elodie the Elephant* from One Yard Wonders

Baby Quilts*
I don't get to make baby quilts as much as I would like to. I did get to do a quick paneled Winnie the Pooh Quilt for a Colleague. Don't be too impressed though, this is just a panel from walmart that you add batting and a back to and then quilt over the lines to make it look legit/took a long time quilt. But! It works for me.

I have spruced up a lot of onesis this past year with ties and bowties for boys, cute flowers and birdies for girls, but alas I have not been a good picture taker of most of these. Here is my nephew Vincent in a Cowboy Onesie I made him. (Hat and Baby provided by the sweet Lara)

My mom just made these for her future grandkids. I thought they were adorable. You think she is anxious much? lol

Again, I love baby projects. It will be exciting one day when I am doing these projects for me and a new mcelderry. For now though, it is fun to revel in the happiness of friends and family members and share my happiness for them with a simple gift.

*OK, I am a slacker and couldn't find the pictures of my projects for these. So these are not the EXACT ones I made, but ones I found on the internet that are the same pattern and look pretty much the same.

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