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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. 🙂

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Apple Pie Muffins

Apple Pie Muffins

With Craig being in medical school, we really don’t get to spend too much time together.  Recently, Craig has been trying to make more of an effort to be extra focused and productive while he does study so that our together time can actually be real “together time”…not Craig, me, and the third wheel of medical school notes and notecards.  We also want to be more intentional about how we spend the time we have together so that it is legitimate quality time and not wasted time vegging out on the couch and messing on our own computers.  We want to actually plan fun activities in advance so we can make the most of the little time we have.

Craig and I both love college football.  We could happily spend a date night at home watching a South Carolina game, and that might just be the perfect evening for us.  Or it might not.  Watching a South Carolina football game as Craig’s and my “together time” does in theory sound like a great idea since we both love football.  However, this date night idea is always a gamble. When a football game is really bad, Craig has a more difficult time than I do with not letting the outcome of the game affect his mood for the next couple hours.  He works to let the game go, but neither one of us is interested in having a football game make or break a date night, so we just never know if it will be a good or bad idea.

Of the last three South Carolina games, our game against UGA was the only “date-night” game, and the next two were games that we tracked online or watched on t.v., but Craig still studied and I did some work around the condo.  God clearly understood how desperately Craig and I needed quality time, because the South Carolina game against UGA was the only one of these past three that we won.  And we didn’t just win.  We obliterated them.  That game was a fabulous amount of fun to watch.  We enjoyed some egg salad sandwiches and a game of cribbage while we watched.

The game against LSU sucked, but we fought hard, and I was still proud.

Then there was the South Carolina game against Florida this past weekend.  That game was incredibly painful from beginning to end.  It was embarrassing…agonizing…horrific.  We will just leave it at that.  The one and only redeeming moment of the otherwise miserable three hours of a football game (if that’s what you want to call it) was tasting the batch of apple pie muffins I made to help distract myself from the massacre on t.v.

These muffins are unbelievably moist, but they also have a delightfully crusty streusel topping.  I adapted this recipe from allrecipes.com, making a few changes to my liking loving.  Please try them.  You won’t regret it.  I mean, how can you possibly go wrong when you are making a dessert-for-breakfast type of treat?!

Ingredients

Muffins

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
    • If you don’t have buttermilk, you don’t need to waste you time and money going to the store to get some.  Click here to see how easy it is to make your own dairy or nondairy buttermilk for baking!
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
    • I used Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3-4 cups peeled and diced Granny Smith apples
    • The batter in this recipe is very sweet, so I highly recommend sticking to Granny Smith apples, or a least make sure to use something tart that will not get lost in the muffin.

Topping

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
    • Again, I used a combination of Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine and Blue Bonnet Light.  Either would work, but I was just using up the end of one stick and the beginning of another.

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, stir together 2 1/4 cups of flour, baking soda, salt, 3/4 tsp cinnamon, and nutmeg.  In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk, 1/2 cup melted butter, vanilla, and 1 1/2 cups brown sugar until the sugar has dissolved.  Pour egg mixture and diced apples into flour mixture and stir until everything is well blended.
  2. Spoon batter into greased muffin pan(s), filling cups almost to the top.  For me, the batter ended up making 18 “regular-sized” muffins (a pan and a half).
  3. In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, and 1 tsp cinnamon.  Add in the 2 Tbsp melted butter, mixing until well blended.  It should be dark brown and clumpy.  Sprinkle over the top of the muffins.
  4. Bake 25 minutes at 375, or until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly touched.  Remove from muffin pan to a cooling rack, and enjoy!

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 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!  😉

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