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A Taste of Fall and Early Thanksgiving

I absolutely love living in Charleston.  It doesn’t get too crazy cold in the winter, we live right near the beach, we love our church, and there are always a ton of fun and exciting things to do here.  Aside from missing my family like crazy, Charleston is really an almost perfect place to live.

Almost.

The one thing Charleston is really missing…well, I guess the two things it is missing, but they go together…are fall weather and mountains.  Craig and I are outdoorsy people.  We love hiking together, we love the beauty of the mountains, and we especially love the fall.  During the fall, cooler temperatures are accompanied by autumn rainbows of leaves.  Red, orange, yellow, and every possible combination of those colors make a fall such an incredibly wonderful time of the year.  The cool weather means snuggling by the fire, and it also reminds you of the fast approaching holidays.  The colorful leaves offer a gentle reminder that time is passing and things are changing, but change can be a wonderful, exciting, and incredibly beautiful thing.

We don’t get that in Charleston.  Down here, leaves stay green well into the (relatively) “cooler” weather, and then they just turn brown, die, and fall of the trees in January.  No raking leaves to jump in a fun pile.  No beautiful leaves to add the perfect touch to a November hike.  Fall is Craig’s and my favorite season, and we really miss it!

Thankfully, we got a taste of fall this past weekend, and it was just what we needed!  Because Craig and I will be spending Thanksgiving with his family this year, we spent a long weekend in the North Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains with my family, celebrating an early Thanksgiving.  I hadn’t seen any of my family since they came to visit over Labor Day, so the fall weather, plus being up at a mountain cabin, plus having my family together was just fabulous!  We were right by a trout creek, too, so there was also a lot of fly fishing going on.  We had our traditional Thanksgiving meal together, filled with turkey, stuffing, cherry pie, cinnamon cake, jello salad, the best homemade cranberry sauce EVER, and more!

Don’t worry, some recipes from this weekend will soon follow!  For now, you can enjoy these snap shots of our early Thanksgiving celebration and the wonderful fall weather!

I hope you all enjoy your real Thanksgiving as much as my family enjoyed our pretend Thanksgiving!  Happy almost holiday season, everyone! 🙂

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Pumpkin Spice Bread

Pumpkin Spice Bread

There is absolutely no way around it.  Fall is just not fall without pumpkin bread.

I have seen so many pumpkin bread recipes recently, and I really wasn’t sure which one to try first.  Should I choose one with chocolate chips?  What about the one with the glaze on top?  I was having a lot of trouble deciding, so I asked Craig what he thought.  He of course liked the idea of pumpkin bread that had chocolate chips and glaze, but then we thought about the fact that there are only two people living in this condo.  It takes us some time to work our way through a loaf or two of bread.  So, we decided that this time I should choose a more classic pumpkin bread recipe so that it could work for breakfast, snack-time, dessert, or really whenever, instead of being strictly a dessert bread.  It’s not that Craig and I are opposed to having desserts for breakfast or snacks, because there have been many mornings of brownies for breakfast in the McKinney Condo. 😉  However, since I was going to be making two loaves, I figured I would make something that left more options open for how we want to eat it.  We can mix it up with butter/margarine or cream cheese (not for Craig, though) or just have it plain or whatever.  It’s just more versatile, so we can eat the bread up faster and not let any of it go to waste.  Plus, by choosing a classic pumpkin bread recipe, I could try to deceive myself into thinking that I was actually being healthier.  Our bathroom scale has unfortunately had absolutely no problem informing me that this bread is not exactly a super-food, although it does taste very super!  Craig described it as having the taste of pumpkin pie, but in bread form, and I think he’s pretty spot-on with that.  It’s like all the happiest thoughts and feelings associated with autumn jumped into a loaf of bread so that I could enjoy a fall-themed party in my mouth, complete with party hats, streamers, and confetti. 🙂

Pumpkin Spice Bread

Source: Hostess (With the Mostess)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vegetable/canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves

Directions:

Heat oven to 350.  In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, water, vegetable oil, and eggs.  Beat until well mixed.  Mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and cloves together in a separate bowl.  Stir until well combined.  Slowly add the dry ingredient mixture to the pumpkin mixture, beating until smooth.  Grease two 9x5in bread pans and dust with flour.  Evenly divide the batter between the pans.  Bake for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted all the way to the middle comes out clean.  Let the bread loaves sit for 10 or so minutes before moving them to a cooling rack (unless you are like me, because I burnt my fingers in the midst of my determination to taste the heavenly smelling bread right away…it was worth it).  Serve plain, with butter, or with cream cheese.

Streusel Centered Apple Bread

Streusel Centered Apple Bread

I was awakened by a chill that ran over my body.  Cool, crisp air filled in the space around me.  This is glorious I thought as I pulled the covers just a little tighter around my body, and yet made sure to take in the feel of Autumn’s first breath on my face.  True, it was a chill that had run over my body, but it had somehow warmed me from the inside.  After all, this wasn’t just any chill.  It was a chill from the first day of fall.  I rolled over to snuggle up against Craig, and I relished the fact that the air around me was making my nose a little bit cold.  It was refreshing.  I drifted back to sleep as beautiful leaves, cozy sweaters, and hot chocolate all frolicked together through my mind.  Mmmm…the first day of autumn, and, wow, does it feel like it!

Well, I wish I could tell you that my little anecdote above is true, but it is sadly not.  While autumn officially began at 10:59am on September 22 this year, I live in Charleston, SC, so the first “official” day of autumn for me consisted of a high around 88 and a heat index in the 90s.  While I have grown to love Charleston, I do feel that it has a tendency to rob me of my favorite season, and I am not really a fan of this.

I’m not saying that I did not enjoy my first day of fall.  My cousin and uncle were actually visiting that day, so I spent the day showing Sarah around Charleston, and Craig spent the day checking out the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier with my uncle.  We met back up at home to watch the South Carolina Gamecocks game on t.v. and to relax.  So, yes, the first day of fall was definitely an enjoyable day.  It was just a hot, anti-fall-esque enjoyable day.

We thankfully had a “cool front” this past Monday and Tuesday, with the highs only reaching the low-to-mid 80s, and I was inspired to begin my first round of autumn baking.  To kick off this season, I made an apple bread that has a streusel “topping” in the middle.  I found this recipe from a blog called You Made That?, and it’s actually an adapted/slightly altered version of a Pampered Chef recipe.  The smell was tantalizing as my bread baked in the oven, but the satisfying taste of warm streusel centered apple bread proved to be well worth the wait.

Ingredients:

Bread

  • 1 cup melted butter
    • I used Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled

Streusel

  • 6 Tbsp flour
  • 3 Tbsp butter
    • Again, I used Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Core and chop up the apples, then set them aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredient to the wet ingredients and mix them together.
  3. Add the apple pieces to the batter, and stir it together.
    • This is kind of thick batter, so make sure to take you spatula and really bring the batter from the bottom to the top, so you can make sure the apples get mixed in well and somewhat evenly.
  4. Make the streusel by combining all the streusel ingredients and stirring well.
    • The streusel will be a medium or dark brown and starting to clump together.  Make sure you don’t stop stirring it too early.
  5. Spray two bread pans (I used a 4 1/2 x 8 1/2in pan and a 5 x 9in pan) with nonstick cooking spray, and scoop out some of the bread batter into the pans.  Crumble half of the streusel topping over each bread pan with your fingers.  Scoop the rest of the batter into the two pans, trying to keep the portions somewhat even.
  6. Bake at 325 for 70-80 minutes or until a knife inserted into the bread comes out clean.

Happy Autumn, everyone!

I’m Getting Pumped!

10 more days until the official start of this

followed by 39 more days until this

followed by 22 more days until this

followed by 33 more days until this

followed by 6 slash 7 more days until this

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!  😉

Celebrating October

I’ve always loved the month of October.  Fall is my favorite season, and (before I moved to Charleston) October has always been the first month when the temperature seems to have begun a long-term decline and the leaves begin to look different.  My love for the holiday season also influences my love for October, because, as my theory goes:

  • The beginning of October means it’s almost Halloween.
  • Halloween means it’s almost the holiday season.
  • The holiday season means it’s almost Christmas.

In recent years, however, October has become important to me for more substantial reasons.  It was on October 10th that Craig took me on my last first date just two years ago, and it was on October 21st of last year that he got down on one knee to ask me to spend the rest of my life with him.

So, as we just celebrated the anniversary of our first date a week ago, we celebrate four amazing months of marriage tomorrow, and we celebrate one year since I told Craig “Yes!” this weekend, I decided that October must also be a good time for another new beginning: our blog.

In John 4, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman about the living water that comes from God.  He explains:

13Everyone who drinks this water [from the well] will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

In John 15:12-13 Jesus tells his disciples:

12My command to you is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

I titled this blog “McKinney Living” because I like that it implies an ongoing process.  Craig and I each had a life of our own, but now we have made a commitment to die every day for each other that we may know what it means to be truly living.  We are by no means perfect, but we continue to learn more every day what it means for two to become one.

So, here it goes!  A blog full of random thoughts, dairy free recipes, probably some (inappropriate) med school jokes, and more!  Enjoy!

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