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The “Reveal”

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Craig and I were so ready for my twenty week appointment last week!  They were going to be doing the big ultrasound where they check for any malformations and find out the gender of the baby.  Craig was so excited!  He couldn’t wait to see the “live feed” of our sweet baby.  I was mostly anxious.  I was so scared that they would tell me there was some sort of malformation with our baby, but my wonderful husband assured me everything would be ok.  And it was.  Our baby is as healthy as can be.  Praise God!

Oh, and guess what else!  We are having a baby girl!  We didn’t really care too much one way or the other what we were having as long as the baby was healthy, but I knew that Craig kind of wanted a girl first.  He is over the moon excited!  So many people had told us they were 90-100% “certain” (except apparently not) we were having a boy, that Craig and I were both in shock at first.  In fact, I made the ultrasound tech take a second picture to double check.  It is definitely a girl, and I can’t wait to meet her!

After our appointment, Craig and I stopped at the store to pick up a cute little girly onesie.  MUCH to my parents’ dismay, I refused to tell them separately on the phone what we were having, and I decided they would have to skype with us that evening when they were both home from work to find out.  My mom was dying…she wanted my dad to leave work early that day, but he was unable to.  So my mom had to wait.  It. was. rough.  Yet, somehow, she made it through. 😉 We showed my parents the onesie that night one skype (my mom was shocked, as she was one of the 90%-certain-it’s-a-boy people), and then we called Craig’s parents to tell them.  What an exciting night!  Beyond that, we worked hard to mostly keep to ourselves what we were having, because we knew that we would be taking “gender announcement” pics with my parents that weekend when we saw them in Greenville.  Craig and I were heading up there for his grandfather’s 90th birthday party on Saturday, so my parents and twin brother met us for lunch on Sunday before we had to head back to Charleston.

The pictures turned out adorable, and it was awesome to get to announce to everyone on Mother’s Day what we are having.

"Daddy's Little Princess" and pink onesie

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Craig and I are so excited to meet our little Hadley Elyse!  We already love her so much, and I know that love is only going to continue to grow with each passing day!  I guess it’s time to start getting our place together and baby-ready!  Everything seems so much more real now that we are beyond the halfway point, we know what we are having, and we already have a name for her…so if this doesn’t kick me into nesting mode, I don’t know what will!  I ordered a crib for our sweet Hadley this morning, so that’s a start!  Now we just have to focus on getting Craig through USMLE Step 1 (his boards exam all students have to take after their second year of medical school), and then we can really get to work!  Craig has claimed our guest room as his “boards study cave” for now, but it’s going to be looking more and more like a nursery pretty soon!  I am visiting my parents over Memorial Day this year, so we will hopefully go fabric shopping while I am up there.  I can’t wait!

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A Broken Computer and Our Holiday Fun

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I’m coming back to the blogging scene with the new year!

In November, my computer broke.  I wouldn’t say it completely crashed because I could (usually) turn it on, but it had a million different things wrong with it.  Whatever you would call it, my computer was definitely not usable.  In fact, I wanted it to crash, because then I could just get over it and head to the store to get a new one.  But no, my computer’s death was long and agonizing, and the Apple people were determined to see if they could make it usable for me instead of just letting me get a new one (I had a stellar warranty on the computer).  So I had to play a game of waiting around without a computer.  That’s a big problem for someone who’s entire job revolves around a computer.

Craig and I spent a few weeks trading off with his computer.  I would use it for work during the day while he was at class, and he would use it at night for whatever med-school-related activities he needed to use it for.  So for me, that took updating this blog I have come to enjoy out of the picture.  By the time the folks over at Apple decided that fixing my computer was going to cost them more than giving me a new computer (yes, there were that many different things wrong with my computer), we were in full swing holiday season mode, and there was no turning back.

So, now, here I am, back in Charleston after a whirlwind of holiday travels.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, Craig and I headed to Greenville to visit his cousins and for Craig to give a talk at Furman.  Apparently they wanted him to talk about medical school to the Health Sciences Department as a part of their monthly career nights to show students different options within that major.  I know, you ALL are wondering why they didn’t ask me to talk about the coffee cup printing industry as a career option for Health Science majors.  To this day, I still do not know. 😉

We then headed on up to Rock Hill where we spent a couple days with Craig’s dad, stepmom, and their kennel’s worth of animals (three dogs and two cats) before heading over to spend a couple days with Craig’s mom and her new dog.  It was a wonderful trip (besides the frustration on not having a computer) that got to end with watching South Carolina beat Clemson during their rivalry weekend game.  So awesome!

Then began the Christmas chaos of holiday shopping while Craig studied for his last exam of the term.  To be honest, I was definitely feeling overwhelmed at this point.  Besides feeling like I was in charge of all the shopping and needing to come up with a presentation for the McKinney family Christmas, I was also dealing with some health issues in my family and trying to hold it all together.  Thank goodness we serve our wonderful God who can actually hold it all together when we can’t, because I could not handle it myself.

FINALLY, Craig finished his exam and we were free to enjoy our break!  We traveled a ton over the break: to Rock Hill, to Greenville, back to Rock Hill, to Georgia, to North Carolina, back to Georgia, and back to Charleston.  I think that even more than the driving, the constant packing and unpacking is the most exhausting part.  Of course, I shouldn’t complain, because Craig did most of the packing and unpacking.  In fact, I was feeling super appreciative after the first time he loaded our car, but then he called his dad to say they needed to clear out a closet for all my stuff.  After that comment, I just called it even.  🙂

Here are “a few” snapshots from our crazy holiday season.  Craig and I got a new “grown-up” camera for Christmas, so I’m a little picture happy right now…

Despite spending most of this holiday season traveling, I was determined to still put up my Christmas decorations.  These are just a few.

Despite spending most of this holiday season traveling, I was determined to still put up my Christmas decorations. These are just a few.

We built gingerbread houses with our friends from church, Claire and Jordan.  They built a super legit barn house with an outhouse and everything.  We built a barely-stable house that we had to piece broken graham crackers together in order to make.  It was still a lot of fun, though!  :-)

We built gingerbread houses with our friends from church, Claire and Jordan. They built a super legit barn house with an outhouse and everything. We built a barely-stable house that we had to piece broken graham crackers together in order to make. However, our house turned out better than we expected (meaning it didn’t end up falling), and we had a lot of fun!

I finished wrapping our presents with eight or so hours of enjoyment time to spare before we had to pack them all up to head out of town.

I finished wrapping our presents with eight or so hours of enjoyment time to spare before we had to pack them all up to head out of town.

We always love spending time with Craig's immediate and extended family in Rock Hill and Greenville.  His cousins, aunts, and uncles crack me up, plus we got to spend a day and a half with Craig's brother, Will, which is the first time we had seen him since our wedding.  Will and his wife, Elizabeth, are both residents at UVA, so they are quite busy.  We only saw Elizabeth for about twenty minutes before she had to catch a slight back to Charlottesville for her 30hr Christmas Eve shift, so we unfortunately didn't get a picture.

We always love spending time with Craig’s immediate and extended family in Rock Hill and Greenville. His cousins, aunts, and uncles crack me up, plus we got to spend a day and a half with Craig’s brother, Will, which is the first time we had seen him since our wedding. Will and his wife, Elizabeth, are both residents at UVA, so they are quite busy becoming awesome doctors. We only saw Elizabeth for about twenty minutes before she had to catch a flight back to Charlottesville for her 30hr Christmas Eve shift, so we unfortunately didn’t get a picture.

After going to the Christmas Eve service in Rock Hill with Craig's mom and brother, we packed our stuff up to head out early in the morning for Georgia.  My brothers were still sleeping when we got there, so we ran upstairs to wake them up and all see what Santa brought us.  As you can probably tell, they are still waking up in these pictures...

After going to the Christmas Eve service in Rock Hill with Craig’s mom and brother, we packed our stuff up to head out early in the morning for Georgia. My brothers were still sleeping when we got there, so we ran upstairs to wake them up and all see what Santa brought us. As you can probably tell, they are still waking up in these pictures…

While Christmas morning was wonderful, Christmas did not feel complete until my brother's girlfriend and her daughter came over that evening.  We also got to see my dad's parents that evening.  What a wonderful end to a wonderful day!

While Christmas morning was wonderful, Christmas did not feel complete until my brother’s girlfriend and her daughter came over that evening. We also got to see my dad’s parents that evening. What a wonderful end to a wonderful day!

Then my family packed all of our stuff up to head to the North Carolina mountains for a few days.  It was so cold, but so fun!

Then my family packed all of our stuff up to head to the North Carolina mountains for a few days. It was so cold, but so fun!

These are just a few of the "nature" picture Craig and I took while we were up there.

These are just a few of the “nature” pictures Craig and I took while we were up there.

What fun is a family vacation without an adorably corny family picture?!  I actually love this picture.  :-)

What fun is a family vacation without an adorably corny family picture?! I actually love this picture. 🙂

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! 🙂

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!

Easy Weekend Monkey Bread

Easy Monkey BreadDear Reader,

I promise I do care about health and I do not live on sugar alone.  That being said, I am about to offer the fourth sweet treat I made over Labor Day Weekend for my family.  Please know that the perpetual sugar high of this past weekend did end eventually – just not before I made this tasty breakfast for my family.

Love and Calories,

Ok, now that I got that out of the way, this is the breakfast I made for my family on Sunday morning.  My mom made something similar to this for my brothers and me growing up when we would have friends sleepover.  We always loved it!  I found this version of classic monkey bread on the Pillsbury website.  I love that this version has the oozing caramel-type topping on top that is complimented by the perfectly soft and cinnamon-y biscuit pieces on the inside.

Recipe

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 of the large (about 16oz) cans or a 4-pack of the small (about 8oz) cans of buttermilk biscuits
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Directions:

In a bowl, mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon.  Open up all your packages of biscuits, and cut each biscuit into quarters.  Rolls the biscuit pieces in the cinnamon and sugar mixture, and the arrange them in a lightly greased 12oz bundt pan, adding the nuts and/or raisins if you are using them.  (While I think I would have also enjoyed this with nuts and raisins, I did not use any because I was serving to a lot of people with varying tastes and pickiness levels, and I knew this was plenty delicious already.)  In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and butter/margarine together, then pour over the biscuit pieces.  Bake for 28 to 32 minutes* at 350 or until golden brown on the outside and no longer doughy on the inside.  Let it cool for 5-10 minutes before flipping the monkey bread upside down onto a serving plate.  Serve warm, and enjoy!

*For whatever reason, this generally takes me closer to 32-35 minutes before the delectable breakfast is truly done.

Easy Monkey Bread

Simply Delicious Peach Pie

Simply Delicious Peach Pie

Padre’s birthday is August 31, so we got to celebrate his 49th birthday when my family came down to visit Craig and me over Labor Day Weekend.  So fun!  It was the first time our whole family was together for my dad’s birthday in a long time (probably since Michael, my older brother, was a high school senior, so that would be eight years) so it was extra exciting and special to get to spend it together.  Since I can remember, my dad has always requested that my mom bake a peach pie for his birthday, so I of course had to carry that tradition on.  It was a bonus because Craig is all about desserts that are chocolate, chocolate and peanut butter, or chocolate and mint.  I like chocolate, but I also love fruit-centered pies and cobblers, so it was nice to have an excuse to make a non-chocolate dessert!

We had a big day at the beach on Saturday and we were all ready for some afternoon naps when we got home.  Once we ate some lunch and regained some energy, we set out for dinner and dessert ingredients that we needed and got to work.  Michael worked on a low-country boil, while my dad did a beef tenderloin, and I worked on the desserts.  While I may try to be more creative with my pie-baking in the future (maybe by making my own crust or adding some sort of topping), it just was not going to happen this weekend.  Too much chaos and too many other things going on in our little kitchen at once.  Still, the pie was absolutely splendid, and we ate it right up!

I couldn’t find the recipe online that my mom has used in the past, so I just glanced through a few different versions and then made it my own.  I basically made this as simple as a pie recipe could possibly get, but it was still completely mouth-wateringly delicious!

Recipe:

  • pie crust pastry for a double crust, 9in pie
  • 6-8 peaches, peeled and sliced (about 5 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Mix the flour, sugar, and cinnamon together in a bowl.  Combine this mixture with the sliced and peeled peaches in a large bowl and mix together.  Mix until all the peaches are evenly and well-coated with the mixture.  In a 9in pie pan, fit one of the crusts along the bottom and up the sides.  You want to stretch it gently to make sure the whole pan is covered, but be careful not to leave any torn spots in the crust.  Spoon the peach mixture into the pie pan, and cover with the top crust, again stretching the crust to reach but not breaking it.  (I ended up having more peach slices than I needed, so I pulled some out before adding the top crust, and I got to have that on top of a waffle in the morning.  Delicious!)  Seal the pie crust edges together, cut a few slits in the top of the crust, and wrap foil around the edges.  Bake at 450 for 25 minutes, remove the foil, and then continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes.  The end result will be absolutely delightful!

Enjoy your slice of pie with a scoop of ice cream, a glass of milk, or however you wish.  I grew up enjoying a slice of hot pie in a bowl with milk poured right over it.  Yum!  Yum!  Yum!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I hope everyone had a splendid Labor Day Weekend!  Labor Day Weekend at the McKinney home was crazy hectic, but it was unbelievably amazing!  My family came to visit us, which is basically my favorite thing in the world.  Happy chaos is setting a new record for how many people and animals can actually sleep in our two-bedroom condo at once.  We had eight people and two dogs total!  Yep, it took our queen bed, the full bed in the guest room, our queen Aerobed, a twin air mattress, and our couch, but we managed just fine for the three nights, and we had a wonderful weekend together!

My dad’s 49th birthday was the Friday that everyone got into town, but we weren’t celebrating until Saturday since everybody left after work to head here and arrived between 9:30pm and 1:30am.  I was planning on making our family tradition of peach pie for Padre’s birthday, as well as a chocolate cake recipe that I had gotten from my mother-in-law that I knew Padre liked.  However, a couple of hours before my parents got here (they were the first to arrive), Padre informed me that since his birthday was actually that day, he would be willing to accept some chocolate chip cookies upon arrival.  I knew that Padre loved chocolate chip cookies, so I had thankfully already double-checked to make sure I had all the ingredients.  I wanted to make them that night but wasn’t sure whether it would get postponed because of all the cleaning Craig and I were scrambling to do before they got here.  I obviously decided at that point that I was going to fit the chocolate chip cookies into my schedule for the evening.  Padre asked if I was going to be making Toll House cookies, but I informed him that I would actually be making McKinney House cookies…the kind from scratch so that Craig could eat them.

Confession: “McKinney House” cookies are actually the recipe for “Extraordinary Chocolate Chip Cookies” that I found on the Betty Crocker Recipes’ Photostream page on Flickr.  😉

Recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 24oz bag (or 2 12oz bags) of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, beat butter/margarine, sugars, vanilla, and eggs until light and fluffy.  Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt.  Stir in the chocolate chips last.  Drop dough by the tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet, about two inches apart and slightly flattened.  Bake 10-13 minutes or until light brown.  Pull the cookies out of the oven and let them cool for 1-2 minutes before moving to a cooling rack for the remainder of their cooling.  Finally, ENJOY!

Also, one important note is that I halved the recipe, and I still had close to three dozen cookies, so that’s definitely something to consider when you are deciding whether to use the whole recipe or not!

Happy cookie baking!  🙂

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