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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Cinnamon Roll Cake

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I’m not really sure why, but rainy days always seem to put this urge inside of me to bake.  I don’t mean like the “through eggs, oil, and brownie mix in a pan and stick it in the oven” type of baking.  I mean the “let’s make something from scratch” type of baking.

Well, I’d say that yesterday definitely counted as a rainy day.  While the intensity of the rain changed throughout the day from a drizzle to a steady rain to a storm back to a drizzle and so on, it was definitely raining in some form for the entire day.

This is a picture of the Market downtown that someone sent to our local news channel. I also watched a video of somebody wakeboarding down the street. Crazy!

So I definitely was in a baking mood yesterday, but there were a couple of problems.  The first was that I still had work yesterday…I’ve found that a downside to working from home is that you can’t claim bad weather and the commute to be reasons for not getting your work done.  😉  The second problem was that I was out of yeast, so even if I had time to bake some homemade bread or rolls, I was still missing an essential component.

My solution was to try out this recipe.  I adapted it from Cookin’ Up North, and I was so excited to try it out!  With the taste and smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls and the texture and density of a made-from-scratch cake, how could I possibly go wrong?  Well, I couldn’t.  It was absolutely delicious!



  • 3 c. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
    • I used vanilla soy milk.
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. butter, melted
    • I used a combination Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine and Blue Bonnet Light Margarine.


  • 1 c. butter, softened (My first thought was Wow, that’s a ton of butter! Then again, this is a cake, so I don’t know what I was expecting…)
    • Again, I used Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine and Blue Bonnet Light Margarine.
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon


  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. milk
    • Again, I used vanilla soy milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. salt


Mix all of the cake ingredients together except for the butter.  Then, slowly stir in the melted butter.  Pour the batter into a greased 9x13in pan.  Mix all of the topping ingredients together until they are very well blended.  Drop the topping by small spoonfuls evening over the batter, then swirl it with a knife.  Bake at 350 for 28-34 minutes.  Mix the glaze ingredients together.  After you have completed the baking time, but while the cake is still warm, drizzle the gaze over the cake.

A piece of delicious cinnamon roll cake! Yum!

This cake gave me the satisfaction of baking something from scratch, and yet it was quite easy to make and didn’t take long at all.  It’s definitely something you could throw together at the last minute is you need to bring a dessert for something, because you will likely already have all the ingredients you need.  I also think it’d make a great dessert for a brunch event, like a bridal or baby shower or something.  Delicious!


I Love College Football!

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I Love College Football!

This is finally the week!  It’s the week I spent the previous 229 days anticipating…It’s the start of COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON!  I seriously cannot contain my excitement.  My favorite college football teams are THE Ohio State Buckeyes and the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.  Basically, I’m a Buckeye by blood (both of my parents are from Ohio) and I’m a Gamecock by marriage (which is great because I really didn’t want to get stuck being a UGA fan just because I’m from Georgia).  For almost two weeks now, I have had every Buckeye and Gamecock game scheduled in both my planner and the calendar on my computer.

I grew up with a twin brother and an older brother who was just two years and two days old when we were born.  No sisters.  Just two brothers both very close to my same age.  So yeah, I’d say I was pretty much destined to love sports more than the average girl.  I actually quit ballet and gymnastics as a child so I could play soccer like my brothers.  In general, I like just about every sport (except not really the NBA…don’t judge), but I don’t just like college football.  I LOVE college football (and NHL, but I’ll save that for another post).

I know some people prefer professional football over college football, but that really doesn’t make sense to me.  Sure, some might argue the playoff system makes a little more sense in professional football, but I just don’t feel like loyalty is the same.  That’s where the real difference is.

Most people go to one college, and that’s where your loyalty lies.  You went to school there, and the players played for that one team.  Yeah, some people don’t end up going to college, some people transfer during college, and some go to graduate school somewhere else and therefore feel loyalty to more than one place.  I went to a very small school that couldn’t possibly be competitive in Division I NCAA football.  In those instances, people still choose a school to which their loyalty belongs, as I did.  I grew up a Buckeye because it was in the family, so going to a small school didn’t change anything for me.  I have since also become a Gamecock (and Craig has become a Buckeye) because that is what’s in our McKinney family.

My point is, people generally have one school (or perhaps two) to which they feel most loyal.  That loyalty was what makes college football so great.  It makes what would otherwise be just a football game become something with infinitely more meaning.  It gives you a bond with people you will likely never know.  It becomes us against them.  I may even go as far to say that some games (especially Rivalry Week…just another reason Thanksgiving break is so great) are built up to this mindset of good versus evil.  Of course your team is always the “good” team, and the rival team is always the “evil” team.  That sounds extreme, and I hope there aren’t a ton of people out there that truly believe they are somehow superior to the rival team or that the rival team is in fact evil. However, the tension in the room during a tied rivalry game is great evidence to the weight and importance a single game can have.

Although I personally love football, anyway, I think that it is this type of loyalty for the school itself that draws people into the football scene who otherwise couldn’t care less about this sport or any other.  If you went to college or grew up near a college or your parents went to college, or your best friend or significant other has a team that he or she really cares about, you now have something to root for…a team to care about.  It doesn’t matter if you know what a two-point conversion is or how many downs a team gets.  What matters is that you can read the numbers at the top of the screen to tell you which team is in the lead.  What matters is that you know which team you want to win…you know where your loyalty lies, and that makes this game important to you.

Where is the loyalty with the NFL?  It’s almost non-existent.  This is because after college (and any additional schooling to follow), people move.  Job transfers happen all the time.  How can people, being adults or children, possibly feel such loyalty to NFL team when they are frequently moving?  Perhaps the biggest issue is that even if you want to be loyal to a single NFL team, it is very difficult to be loyal to the players.  Players are traded all the time.  It’s difficult to even get very excited about a new, great player joining an NFL team because there is no telling how long he will be there.  It’s hard to give the same loyalty to a team when its players are ever-changing.

I’m not trying to argue that NFL is boring.  After all, how could any sport really be boring when you have the option of creating your own fantasy team?  I’m just saying that while an NFL game can certainly entertain me, it is NCAA football that truly grabs me and pulls me in.  I become invested, and there’s no turning back.  Sigh.  I know this post may sound a little over the top, but cut me some slack.  It’s been months since I’ve felt the excitement that comes with this season.

OH, and in case anyone is curious, I do offer Craig frequent reminders throughout football season of how incredibly lucky he is to have married someone who loves spending our Saturdays watching football together.  Can’t have him taking that for granted, no siree!  😉

Slow Cooker Honey [Sesame] Chicken

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Slow Cooker Honey [Sesame] Chicken

So I found one version of this recipe last year on Pinterest, but I wanted to look into some other recipe versions before I committed.  Well, I realized that all the recipes are essentially the same, or very similar, so it really didn’t matter which one I used.  The only real difference is whether you like more or less of the sauce with a given amount of chicken.  My personal opinion is that you can never have too much.  If you end up having leftover sauce after you have eaten all the chicken, you can just pour some on rice later on as a tasty leftover…and I am ALL ABOUT making leftovers stretch as long as they can.  🙂

This recipe is so easy and insanely delicious.  It has definitely become a slow cooker staple in the McKinney household!


  • 1 1/2 lb chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbs canola/vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 tsp cornstarch dissolved into 6 Tbs water (You don’t need this until the end.)
  • sesame seeds (optional)


Season  both sides of the chicken with the salt in pepper, and place in the slow cooker.  In a small bowl, combine and mix the honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Pour honey mixture over the chicken and cook on low for 3-4 hours (I do 3 hours) or high for 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours (I do 1 1/2 hours).  Remove the chicken from the slow cooker, leaving the sauce. In a bowl, dissolve 4 tsp of cornstarch into 6 Tbs of water.  Combine this with the sauce in the slow cooker.  Shred or cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and put it back in the slow cooker to mix in with the sauce for a few minutes.  Serve over rice or noodles, and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top if you wish.

Whether or not I put sesame seeds on top really just depends on whether I remember or not.  I clearly forgot tonight.  We usually have ours over rice, with either broccoli or peas as a side.  Tonight, we followed it up with some delicious peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  What a delicious evening!

Squash Casserole

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When I think of dinner at my mother-in-law’s house, I think of squash casserole.  Craig tells me that his mom actually never really made this delicious side-dish until he and his brother were both adults, but it has been a regular dish since I began hanging around.  Honestly, she probably makes a point to make her squash casserole when Craig and I visit specifically because of how much I always say how much I love it, but that is perfectly fine with me.

There are a few reasons that I particularly love this casserole.

  1. It is a casserole that Craig can eat.
    • So many casseroles contain cream-of-[insert whatever] soup, and Craig can’t eat those.  Of course, I could create some sort of dairy-free version of those ingredients from scratch and then attempt all these otherwise-un-Craig-friendly recipes, but I don’t have that type of time on a typical evening.  One day, I would love to have an extra freezer so that I can make all these dairy-free basics from scratch and then freeze them to use in casseroles and other meals when I need them, but we don’t have that kind of room right now.  If I want to whip something together quickly for dinner, it’s going to have to be dairy-free (or easily altered to be dairy-free) from the get-go.
  2. It has a vegetable in it, and Craig likes it.
    • Now it’s not that Craig isn’t willing to eat vegetables at all.  He’s almost always willing to try something at least once, and he has definitely taught himself to like some vegetables way more than he used to.  Still, it’s hard to find vegetable-focused foods that Craig really loves.
      • Before anyone has an urge to comment and tell me how having a casserole with a vegetable the title doesn’t mean it’s healthy because of the high caloric content, there is no need to waste your time.  I am well aware that a squash casserole has way more calories than plain squash, and honestly, I’m thankful for that.  Yes, I definitely have to be aware of my portions so I don’t consume more calories than I should, but Craig’s metabolism is so insanely fast!  And it’s not the “You-have-a-fast-metabolism-because-you-are-young-and-active” type of fast.  It’s the “You-have-amazing-calorie-obliterating-genetics-and will-always-have-to-consume-WAY-more-calories-than-a-norml-person-no-matter-what” type of fast.  I literally have to ALWAYS keeps baked goods in our kitchen so that Craig has them available to eat some calorie-dense food when he needs it.  If he only consumed what we would consider “healthy and nutritious” food, Craig literally could not consume enough calories to keep from losing weight.  Yeah, I know.  It’s simply unfair.  My dad, my twin brother, Craig’s mom, and Craig all have these metabolisms.  In my family, we (being the less metabolically-blessed family members) call them H.M.F.s…standing for High Metabolism Freaks.  But I digress…  My point is, if I can find something that includes a vegetable and is a little higher in calories than just the vegetable itself, that’s even better for Craig.
  3. I like it!
    • Yeah, I’m well aware of the fact that I just listed “I like it” as a reason that “I love this casserole.”  It seems redundant, I know.  However, my goal of Craig-friendly recipes is not to create something that someone who never has any dairy would like.  My goal is to create something dairy-free, but that anyone who eats dairy-filled recipes on a regular basis would still enjoy eating.  This falls into that category.

My mother-in-law told me that she’s basically had this recipe forever, and that she originally found in an old Southern Living recipe book.  I tried to find it again online, but they pretty much have ten million squash casserole recipes, so oh well.  I did my best to give them credit.  🙂

Squash Casserole Recipe*

  • 1/4 cup mayonaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup cracker crumbs (divided)  –>  I didn’t crumble my crackers very small because I like the bigger chunks, but the originally recipe has the crackers really crumbled.
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese (which I obviously omitted)
  • 1(-ish) pound yellow squash

*I actually made just under a double-batch, so if you are thinking to yourself that what you see in the pictures is more than I have listed above, that’s because you’re right!


  1. Clean the squash and cut off the ends.  Then, cut up, boil and mash the squash.
  2. Combine mayo, onion, 1/4 cup of the cracker crumbs, egg, sugar, salt, & pepper.
  3. Combine the mayo mixture to the mashed squash, and mix well.
  4. Pour into a lightly greased 1 quart casserole dish.
  5. Sprinkle the other 1/4 of the cracker crumbs on top.
  6. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.I used whole wheat crackers, so don’t expect your crackers to be this brown when your casserole is done if you are using regular crackers.  At that point, the crackers would probably be burnt.
  7. (If using cheese) After the casserole is baked, sprinkle the 1/4 cup of cheese on top, and stick the casserole back in the oven until the cheese is melted.

We enjoyed our casserole with a deliciously marinaded london broil, rolls from the Publix bakery, a glass of Malbec, and a salad with mixed greens, craisins, slivered almonds, goat cheese, and a little bit of balsamic vinaigrette.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

One of the toughest parts of Craig’s dairy allergy is the realm of desserts.  Most desserts that you can buy from the store ready to eat or buy and just stick in the oven are not Craig-friendly.  We do have a few basic dessert staples that we use (like Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix), but most desserts that I can make Craig-friendly require an entire free day to make from scratch…and I rarely have an entire free day to make something from scratch.

However, chocolate peanut butter pretzel bars are simultaneously one of the easiest and most delicious desserts I have EVER made. They take the unbeatable combination of chocolate and peanut butter, and…dare I say it…step it up a notch.  The saltiness of the pretzels cuts through the sweetness of everything else with sharp perfection, and I love the crunch it adds to the otherwise smooth texture.  And guess what else!  This is a NO BAKE recipe.  That’s right!  You don’t have to turn on your oven!  The bonuses of this recipe just go on and on.

I found this recipe through Pinterest, on a blog called Bakerlady.  She adapted her recipe from a blog called The Craving Chronicles.  And now here is my adaptation, as simple and delicious as can be, ready for you to make!


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cups peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups pretzel crumbs*
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ (powered) sugar
  • 3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter

*Now about making those pretzel crumbs…The blog where I first found this recipe said to pulse the pretzels in your food processor until most of them are finely ground, but there are still some pea-sized pieces.  However, I don’t own a food processor, so I took a slightly different approach…

It really didn’t take long at all to make my pretzel crumbs.  I could have easily crushed them to be more fine as on the website where I originally found this recipe, but I preferred it to be a good mix of finely ground pretzel and little pretzel chunks to add that crunch I love.


Line an 8x8in pan with foil.  Spray with cooking spray.

In a medium microwave bowl, melt butter in the microwave (about 30-ish seconds). Mix in the pretzel crumbs, peanut butter, and confectioners’ sugar.  It’s going to be very thick, and kind of turn into just one big clump, so just try to make sure the clump is mixed well with all the ingredients.Spread your pretzel mixture evenly into your prepared pan.  Refrigerate for at least ten minutes while you throw together your ganache topping.

Combine semi-sweet chocolate chips and peanut butter in the microwave, stirring frequently until the mixture is melted and smooth.  Then pour over pretzel mixture, and spread evenly.Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Remove from the pan, cut into squares, and enjoy!

Making Time for Quality Time

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Making Time for Quality Time

So med school basically takes up a ton of time…and money.  It’s tough figuring out how to spend “quality” time together, because when Craig does have a break from school, and when I do have a break from working, cleaning, and cooking, we just want to sit and veg out on the couch.  We sit and watch the NCIS marathons on USA, and then all of the sudden, it’s time for bed.  Even if we do decide we have just enough time and energy to do something fun together, we definitely don’t have enough time and energy to plan time together in advance, and then follow through with it.  I mean, there are definitely a ton of cool and exciting things to do in Charleston, but most of them require a bigger budget than what we have, plus advanced planning.

Craig and I have really enjoyed having more time together this summer.  Craig’s had more time in the evenings and on the weekends to spend time with me and help out around the condo.  I’ve had more free time since Craig has been able to help out some more around our condo, and I’ve enjoyed the free time that has given me to spend with him.  We’ve also gotten to visit both of our families this summer, which is an obvious highlight for me.

However, the summer is quickly coming to a close, and Craig and I are  dealing with the realization that not only will med school continue to require more and more from Craig, but also that we are not going to get another summer like this.  Essentially, this has been Craig’s last summer vacation ever.

So, in preparation for not having the time or energy to come up with fun, easy, and inexpensive ways to spend quality time together once the summer ends, I decided to use some of the extra time I do have right now to brainstorm in advance.  I searched Pinterest, other websites, and of course my own, brilliant mind to create this list.  So now, when Craig and I do have a little time to spend together, we will have a guide of ideas to help us out.  Some of these are things we’ve already done, and some are things we want to do.  Some ideas are better or worse depending on general location (it’s way easier to go to the beach at this point in our life than going to hike in the mountains), and some are even specific to Charleston.  Still, I think this list is at least somewhat relatable no matter where you live, and I hope to add to it in time and continue to pull ideas from it in the future when we don’t live in Charleston anymore.  In the end, I am very happy with this list of mostly free or inexpensive quality time slash date ideas.

Free(-ish) Quality Time/Date Ideas

  • Play Tennis
    • Ok, so I’m quite terrible at tennis…as in I don’t know anybody that I’ve ever met who is as bad as me.  That being said, Craig enjoys tennis, so I try to make a point to hit the ball with him every now and then.  Plus, my skills can only go up, so I really don’t have anything to lose.
  • Throw a Frisbee
  • Outdoor Picnic
    • It may seem funny that I am specifying for a picnic to be outside, but I want to stress the idea of actually packing all of the food up to take somewhere else and just get out of the home, as well as enjoying some nice weather.  Especially since I work from home, it’s nice to be able to just get out and have a change of scenery and to get some fresh air.
  • Go See the Lighthouse
    • There is a lighthouse just off the shore of James Island that Craig has never seen, and we want to make a point to go visit it together.  Obviously everyone doesn’t have a lighthouse nearby, but I’m sure there places near everybody’s home that you just never make the time to go explore, and you definitely should!
  • Take a Walk on the Beach
    • It’s really sad what a rarity it is for Craig and me to go walk on the beach, considering we only live a few miles away…We need to fix that.

      Enjoying quality time on Folly Beach together while I enjoy getting to wear this fabulous hat that I got at the market in downtown Charleston.

  • Waterfront Park
    • This is a popular place where you can walk near the ocean, and there are also fountains that kids can play in.  I know I’ve seen those fountains other places, the kind where the water shoots up from the ground.  It’s fun to enjoy the breeze of the ocean while we can people watch and see little kids playing in the fountains.
  • Explore James Island County Park
    • This is a very popular park that is about a seven minute drive from where Craig and I live.  They do Christmas lights here every year, but we want to go explore all the other aspect of it, as well.
  • Take the Pup to the Dog Park
  • Sketch and/or Make a List of “Dream Home Must-Haves”
    • I really think that Craig and I could be happy just about anywhere, but it’s still fun to think about.  Being that neither of us are really artistic, this mainly means that Craig is looking through realty websites while I am looking through homes on Pinterest, and then we show each other our favorites and say why we like them.
  • Go Hiking
    • This is one of our absolute favorite things to do together, but we don’t get to do it very often considering we live at the beach.  If only we could plop a mountain fifteen minutes outside of Charleston…

      Craig and I went up to the mountains for our first anniversary, and we went on a fifteen mile hike one of the days we were up there. It was so fun and exhausting at the same time!

  • Board Games/Puzzles
  • Make a Fort and Watch a Movie from Inside
    • We actually did this the weekend that I first made this list.  Neither of us had built a fort in years, and we’re going to be doing this type of stuff when we have kids anyway, so we figured we would give it a shot!  Since we were building a fort, we decided it was only appropriate to watch Disney movies over any other movie.  And now Craig has seen Cinderella!
  • Nerf Gun Wars
    • Craig is under the misguided belief that he has a chance of beating me at this.  Come on!  I grew up with two brothers the same and almost the same age as me, so let’s be real.  Craig doesn’t stand a chance.
  • Volunteer Together
    • Craig and I volunteer with the 2-year-olds at our church together, and I can’t tell you how rewarding it is.  Not only is it fun and amazing to see what a difference you are making, but it’s a wonderful feeling to see your significant other be giving of him or herself and make a difference to others.
  • Make Pizzas Together
    • With Craig’s dairy allergy, this is really the only way we can have pizza, but I think other people would really enjoy it, too.  Instead of doing take-out or delivery or something frozen, make your own!  Be creative and try new toppings.  The great thing about pizza is that it’s really hard to completely ruin.
  • At-Home Fondue
    • If you don’t have a fondue pot, just use a crock-pot.
  • Bake and/or Cook Something New
    • I stress the idea of this being something that neither one of you has made before, or else that person may end up making it alone while the other person watches.  The idea is to get both people involved.
  • Go for a Bike Ride
    • Don’t forget your helmet!
  • Rollerblading/Rollerskating Outside
    • Craig and I don’t have our own, so I’m think I’m might try to confiscate my parents’ stuff since they haven’t used any of it in about fifteen years…
    • Don’t forget to wear a helmet!
  • Exercise Together
  • Visit a Well-Known Point of Interest Nearby
    • We visited the Angel Oak on Johns Island, which is one of the oldest living organisms east of the Mississippi River.  It is 65ft tall and estimated to be 300-400 years old.  It is 180ft at its widest spread point, which is longer than any other live oak in America.  There are a lot of other Charleston POIs that we want to visit while we live here, but we did this first because it’s completely free and close to where we live.

      This picture does not do the tree justice for how incredible it really is. It’s seriously amazing!

  • Dinner on Our Back Porch
    • Even a tiny change in scenery goes a long way!
  • TV Show/Movie Marathon
    • If you are going to do this, make sure to be active about choosing a theme and maybe mixing it with another idea (like doing a puzzle if you’ve already seen the movies or baking something).  Just make sure to not turn this into vegging together, because that’s what we’re trying to prevent.
  • Watch Football
    • Or any sport that you both love!  Find a team you are both passionate about, or be competitive and pick a game with rival teams between you two…you could even wager house chores or something on the outcome.
  • Breakfast in Bed Meets Dinner and a Movie
  • Play 20 Questions About Each Other
  • Read Out Loud Together
    • This may sound silly, but Craig and I really love doing this.  We just lay down on the couch together with a book that interests us both, and we take turns reading to each other.  We’ve done it with relationship books, pediatric case files, the Bible, and other books.
  • Make a Bucket List for You as a Couple

Low Cost Quality Time/Date Ideas

  • Go to a Roller-rink
  • Go Ice Skating
  • Rock Climbing on a Rock Wall
  • Coffee Date
  • Minor League Baseball Game
  • Minor League Hockey Game
  • Bowling
  • Miniature Golf
  • Go-Carts
  • Local Improv
  • Arcade
  • Whirlyball
  • Take an Art Class Together
    • Groupon always has these offers coming up, so next time you see one, go ahead and grab it!
  • Go to a Shooting Range

Quality Time/Date Ideas That Require a Little More Time/Planning and Money

    • Dinner Cruise
    • Go to a Big College Football Game
    • Go to an MLB Game

      There isn’t any MLB in the Carolinas, so it was quite easy for me to convert Craig to be a Braves fan. This is at a Braves game this summer that we went to see with my whole family. It was a lot of fun!

    • Go to an NHL Game

So many ideas, and I’m sure I will add more!  We’ve had so much fun trying new things together, and we can’t wait to try out more of these ideas that we haven’t tried yet!

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