Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Reflections: Misquoting Jesus

After reading Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman and writing my review, I feel like I need to address the personal side of the books impact.  As I said in the review, I do not feel like Ehrman undermines Christianity at all with his book.

That said, I can tell you I felt very uncomfortable, the more I read of the changes that were made to the manuscripts that have come to be our New Testament.  As I mentioned in Part II of my Religion is Hard, Faith is Easy post, I have had issues with the seeing the Bible as the inerrant Word of God for many years.  However, I had not realized how very many changes, additions and subtractions had been made over the centuries.  It was very disconcerting to see entire passages that were not part of the original manuscripts, though they might have been in the oral tradition.  It was also alarming how much certain Christian scribes had altered manuscripts to support what they considered "orthodox" Christianity.

I'll admit to a moment of panic--how could an entire faith be built on a book that was so very changed?

Then Bart Ehrman pointed out several facts about how the Bible has been viewed over time.

I was relieved to discover that the idea of basing the Christian faith on "sola scriptura"--only scripture--was actually an idea that sprung up during the Protestant Reformation.  Until then, in the Catholic church, traditions passed down through the church were just as important as the Bible.  It was the Protestant movement--I would wager in an attempt to get away from some rather corrupt traditions that had been made up over the centuries--that started asserting the Bible as the foundation for Christianity.  It was reassuring to me that the Christian faith was not always based only on the written scriptures, but also on the legitimate traditions conserved through the generations.

Another relief came when Ehrman revealed (well, it was a revelation to me) that the idea of an inerrant Bible actually developed in the American colonies.  Before that, the Bible was not necessarily held to be a work without error.  That was comforting because it let me know that for the majority of Christianity's history, people acknowledged that the Bible had moved through human hands and thus had been subject to change and error, even if it was the Word of God.

Another aspect of Misquoting Jesus that I enjoyed was Ch. 7--"The Social Worlds of the Text".  In this chapter Ehrman examines the changes made to the manuscripts in regards to women and Jews.  It was actually validating to me to see that some of the verses that I always had the most trouble with--the chauvinistic ones, the anti-Semitic ones--were actually added in or completely altered in order to give the New Testament its stances.  It was also interesting to see how verses had been altered to make them more anti-Semitic than the original manuscript read.  It was wonderful to see that in the oldest manuscripts, women were leaders in the ancient churches and did speak alongside their husbands in church. 

So, I feel more informed and even more content with my view on the Bible after reading Ehrman's book.  As I've said I still consider myself a Christian, even if I don't agree with the inerrancy of the Bible, or that it needs to be the be all end all of the Christian faith.  After reading Ehrman's book, I have found there is good reason for my views on that score, and that I'm not alone in said views--and that the history of the New Testament actually validates them!

All in all, I feel more secure in my version of the Christian faith than I did before, and I can't wait to learn more of the history of Christianity.  The next book:  Lost Christianities also by Bart Ehrman.

Review: Misquoting Jesus

Back in April, I wrote a two-part post entitled "Religion is Hard, Faith is Easy".  In these two posts I shared a bit of my own religious background and I discussed some of my views on religion, on faith, and on the differences between the two.  In the second part, I mentioned that I was currently reading Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman.  In this book, Ehrman introduces readers to the concept of textual criticism and discusses its application to the New Testament of the Bible.
I found Ehrman's tone in this book to be very lay-person accessible.  In other words, if you've never hear of textual criticism or ever looked at the Bible from a strictly historical viewpoint, his work is fairly easy to understand.  I don't mean to imply he completely forgoes the use of scholarly language--but he does explain in plain terms what he means as well.  Ehrman takes the reader through a history of textual criticism as it formed around and was applied to the New Testament, pointing out key occurrences that continue to impact the versions of the NT that is read today. 

Ehrman focuses primarily on the Gospels, but does delve into Acts and the Epistles as well.  He follows the history of the manuscripts that came to compose the New Testament, discussing exactly who the people were who were copying these manuscripts as the years went by.  He shows the many ways that scribes accidentally made mistakes in copying these manuscripts.  Ehrman also puts these scribes (both unprofessional and professional) in the context of the religious and social debates of their times, showing how these could have affected--subconsciously or not--the copier's reproduction of a manuscript.

I have read several "rebuttals" to Misquoting Jesus but have been left wondering if the authors to these rebuttals even bothered reading the book in its entirety.  I will respond briefly to the three I found to be the most common.

One rebuttal claims that Ehrman's sole purpose is to undermine Christianity.  While Ehrman does give readers an introductory description of his own religious journey--from observant Christian to "born again" to a more relaxed Christianity to agnosticism--I didn't find that he at all attempted to undermine Christianity.  He explores the history of Christianity and looks at the Bible as historical document, which admittedly would be intimidating to many Christians, but he himself (in the Q&A section in the back) tells readers that textual criticism was in no way the reason he decided he could no longer be a Christian (it was the problem of pain and evil).  So saying that this book is supposed to undermine Christianity when the author himself was still a Christian after delving into textual criticism doesn't make sense to me.

Another rebuttal claims that Ehrman misleads his readers, leaving them to think that all the changes made to the New Testament manuscripts were meaning-altering for entire books, when most changes were truly insignificant.  This rebuttal doesn't hold water either.  Ehrman acknowledges that the majority of the changes to the manuscripts were insignificant--misspellings, jumbling word order and the like.  However, as he points out, there were many changes that completely altered the original author's meaning, and while these changes were less numerous than the aforementioned changes, they greatly impacted how Christianity has developed.

A third rebuttal--and this I found to be the weakest of the most common--refutes Ehrman's claim that there is no way to know what the original manuscripts said.  Ehrman never claims that!  In fact, he states the exact opposite, although he does say that the difficulties in discovery were very great, perhaps insurmountable.  Even after saying this, however, he declares the importance of continuing to use textual criticism to try and figure out the original wording.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in studying the Bible (especially the New Testament) from an historical and literary viewpoint.  It was a very interesting read, and I learned a great deal about the journey and transformation of the manuscripts that have come to make up today's New Testament.  Of course, as Ehrman points out, textual criticism is still an ongoing process--it will be interesting to see what else is discovered over the coming years.

***For my personal reactions to this book, go to my Reflections post :-).***

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Post-It Note Tuesday!

I can't believe it's June 29th!  This summer has gone so fast so far--today, June's almost over.  On a happier note, Eclipse comes out today!  I'm probably not going today, but I am going with a friend at some point.  It'll be the first of the Twilight movies I haven't seen in theaters by myself!

And speaking of by myself, that's one of today's focus for the Post-It Notes:  me time!  What prompts this focus?
Well, I read an interesting opinion about being married and "me time".  A friend of mine, who has been very happily married for a little less than a year, was expressing that, while she loves spending time with her hubby, she really missed/needed some "her" time.  Another lady posted saying that her "me" time was now family time and she had "learned to love it".  She then expressed the hope that my friend "enjoy becoming one" with her husband.  It sounded to me like a woman who is either in danger of or already has lost herself to the callings of wife and mother.  Don't get me wrong--these are both splendid and important callings.  But losing one's self means that you can't properly perform either role.  I talked a bit about that in regards to marriage in a past post, and while I am not yet a mother, there is no reason why the need to maintain a sense of self wouldn't hold true in that capacity as well..  

Anyways, on to Post-It Note Tuesday! This blogring was started by Supah Mommy, and I found it through my friend Arena, over at The Nerd's Wife!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

I've been following Laura over at I'm An Organizing Junkie for a couple of months now.  She has some absolutely wonderful organizing tips and tricks.  This summer I have started planning our menus for the week, and it has been wonderful!

That said, as well as things have gone, there have been a couple of bumps in the road.  So,I'm going to add a second part to these Menu Planning Monday posts:  Confessions of Meals Gone Wrong!

Last week, I tried my hand at Crock Pot Enchilada Cassrole.  It tasted fine, but boy did it come out soupy!  It was supposed to be a casserole NOT enchilada soup!  I couldn't even get it into a storage container.  Why?  I made a rookie mistake--luckily since I'm a rookie, I'm allowed!

When Beth posted this recipe, she shared that 2 pounds of meat was way too much, and suggested only using 1 pound of meat.  I followed that suggestion and it did indeed provide me with a good amount of meat.  BUT (and here's the rookie mistake) I did NOT drain the meat NOR did I halve the liquids that needed to be used in the recipe.  So OF COURSE I ended up with enchilada soup!

Lol. Oh well.  Everything else last week turned out splendidly--I'll definitely be repeating the Fresh Broccoli and Chicken Toss, and the Garlicky Shrimp Bake later on.  Speaking of on, on to this week!

Without further ado, here's my menu plan for next week!

Breakfast: yogurt, fresh fruit, cottage cheese or oatmeal (possibly eggs or blueberry muffins this weekend)

Lunch:  leftovers, or sandwiches (cheese and meat or PBJ)

Monday: DiGiorno Pizza and Breadsticks (yes, it's a splurge, but a yummy one!)
Tuesday:  Maple-Chili Glazed Pork Medallions with mixed veggies and mashed sweet potatoes
Wednesday:  Crab Cake Burgers with side salad
Thursday:  Pasta Milano with green beans
Friday: Crock Pot Hawaiian Chicken with rice
Saturday and Sunday:  leftovers, salad w/crab meat, or maybe out to eat

Not Me! Monday

"Not Me!" Monday is a blog ring started by MckMama!  It's a ton of fun!  I found it through Arena, over at The Nerd's Wife.

Well, it's been a few days since I blogged.  Why?  My mother-in-law was in town! (yes, that's a good thing)

With my mother-in-law coming in, I did *not* forget to clean the upstairs bathroom, and I also did *not* forget to put guest towel in said bathroom.  I did *not* neglect to vacuum upstairs or Swiffer the floor, and did *not* forget to finish the laundry so the washer and dryer would be open when she got here.  NOT ME!
I would never neglect good hostess actions. 

I did *not* eat waaay to much ice cream.  I did *not* use the excuse that family was in town so it didn't count.  NOT ME!  I would never overindulge and the justify it with a flimsy excuse.

I did *not* avoid weighing in on Friday because of a huge dinner the night before and the aforementioned ice cream that I did *not* eat.  NOT ME!  I always stare unflinchingly into the face of truth, even when it has to do with my weight.

I also did *not* forget about a much-anticipated dinner date with a friend until 5 minutes after I should have left.  I also did *not* drive like a speed demon trying to make up the time and did *not* drive right by the place in my rush to get there.  As a result, I was *not* 10 minutes late.  NOT ME!

I am *not* still slightly put out with my husband after our disagreement last night, even though we reached a good compromise and he apologized.  NOT ME!  I would never still be pissy the next day when things were resolved the night before.  I always just let things go.

Speaking of letting things go, I have *not* neglected posting since last Wednesday.  I did *not* actually enjoy a few days off from blogging.  It was *not* nice to have a few days of just thinking and being without typing.  And now I definitely do *not* have material for several more posts!  NOT ME!

Here's hoping that everyone does *not* have a wonderful Monday!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Big Picture

I had a conversation with my husband last night.  He was wondering what I was going to do today, and I was running down my list when he (sweetheart that he is) said, "Well, don't work too hard.  This is your vacation, after all."

I responded, half-jokingly, "Well, I want to do such a good job that come August you will say 'Stay at home wife, I can't do without you!' and then I won't have to go back!"  I expected a smart-ass remark, but I got a concerned look and a serious, "Do you really not want to go back that badly?"

The answer is I absolutely would love to not go back.  But I said, "Well, its only June.  By August I might feel differently."  He knew exactly what I meant.  I went on to acknowledge that for our kid plan and travel plans over the next few years, it is necessary that I teach at least another three years.

I think the time has come for a perspective check on my part.  Every once in a while, I really need to step back and take a good long look at the big picture.  Last time, I needed to take a perspective check because I felt like I was floundering.  It really helped to set some goals and remind myself of the good things about teaching.

Now, it's summer (one of the best things about teaching), and I have plenty of summer-time goals, so I don't feel as if I'm floundering.  Instead, I am having such a wonderful time being a Stay-At-Home wife, I have already started dreading returning to teaching in the fall.  But, as I said, I know it is necessary.

So, to make the necessity less onerous, here is our big picture:

With our insurance, we have a set maximum that we pay out of pocket each year.  With my health issues and medication costs, we will have to spend that amount each year.  So, my goal is to save up enough money during the prior year to cover the coming medical expenses.  That way, no matter what pops up--additional medications, higher doses, surgeries, whatever--we're covered.  I almost have next year's saved up!

Vic's and Bryanne-Michelle's Weddings 2010
I want to have enough money saved back to cover all things maid of honor/bridesmaid:  dresses, shoes, hair, make-up, jewelry, showers, bachelorette parties, wedding gifts, hotel rooms, etc.  I do not want to have to put any of this on the credit card without having money saved back to immediately pay it off.

Europe Trip 2012 (1 to 2 weeks)
Our goal is to save enough money so that we come home with money left over, instead of low-balling it and coming home with credit card debt.  And any extra will be rolled over into Baby Fund!

Baby G 2013
We're planning on starting to try to conceive when we get back from Europe, so that means Baby G would be born sometime in 2013.  I want to have as much money socked back as possible to ease the transition into parenthood, especially since I want to be a stay-at-home mom for at least a few years after the baby is born.

Over the next few years, the hubby's salary will increase much more quickly than mine (no shit--teacher salaries crawl upwards), so hopefully we'll be able to adjust our budget so that, eventually, most of my salary goes into savings.  By the time Baby G is born, our goal is to be living off of Bryan's salary--meaning paying bills AND meeting savings goals.

This would allow us to not feel the pinch as bad when I stay home AND would mean that most of my salary would have ended up in savings, providing us with a comfortable cushion against whatever might happen.

And that, ladies and gents, is why I will teach for the next three years, or possibly longer if it takes us longer than planned to conceive.  

It's all about the big picture.  And remembering that helps.

Most of the time.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Post-It Note Tuesday!

It's Post-It Note Tuesday again! This blogring was started by Supah Mommy, and I found it through my friend Arena, over at The Nerd's Wife!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Not Me! Monday

"Not Me!" Monday is a blog ring started by MckMama!  It's a ton of fun!  I found it through Arena, over at The Nerd's Wife.

Looking back over last week, I did *not* forget to water my bougainvillea.  It did *not* go all droopy and pouty and my husband definitely did *not* take over and water it for me last night.  I never forget to take good care of my plants.  NOT ME!

Speaking of the hubby, I definitely did *not* pick a stupid fight with him last Wednesday.  I did *not* do so while he was COOKING DINNER WITH ME, and did *not* almost ruin a fun activity simply because he refused to be in a picture.  NOT ME!  I would never put my desire for a picture over spending quality time with my husband.  And yes, I felt very stupid lol.

This weekend we went to a Father's Day lunch at my Nannie and Papa's house.  We did *not* have to stop at the store on the way because I absolutely did *not* forget to buy cards and this did *not* make us twenty minutes late.  Luckily there was still food left, and with my family that's saying something!

I also did *not* eat a huge helping of Nannie's banana pudding, several little cookies, and two huge iced cookies.  NOT ME!  I never deviate from my healthy eating habits. 

I was also *not* incredibly excited when my Nannie showed my the baby-bouncer they got for my cousin Max.  He's almost outgrown it, and she is going to give it to us when he does.  I did *not* drag my husband away from the baseball game to see it, and this absolutely did *not* send my brain off into a baby tailspin.  I was *not* mentally planning how to decorate the nursery and where to put the bouncer.  NOT ME!  I would never want to rush our three-more-years-til-baby plan. 

I definitely have *not* graduated from a baby itch to a full blown baby fever.  NOT ME!

Yesterday I did *not* forget to go pick up my prescriptions (again), and so today I am definitely *not* flaring up.  NOT ME!  I would never be so careless concerning my health and medications. 

And I am emphatically *not* being super lazy today and am *not* choosing to watch a SyFy channel The Sentinel marathon over getting housework done.  NOT ME!

And I am definitely *not* cutting this blog short because another episode is coming on! 

Happy Monday all!

Menu Planning Monday! (6/21/2010)

Although organization and I have never been the best of friends, I have resolved this summer to embark on an odyssey of organization.  My goals are to reorganize our master bedroom, guest room, our library, our current-collect-all-and-future-nursery, finish unpacking boxes and organize whatever comes out of them, and to reassess our "keepsakes", get rid of what doesn't qualify, and organize the rest.  The only major room that I don't really need to organize is the kitchen--but even there I have discovered a need for organization as I try to do the whole stay-at-home wife cooking dinner thing.

A few months ago I discovered Laura over at I'm An Organizing Junkie.  She has some absolutely wonderful organizing tips and tricks and one of those is Menu Plan Monday!  I planned my week's meals for the first time last Monday and it went wonderfully!  I saved quite a bit of money at the grocery store by only making one trip, and every day I knew what I was going to make.

My first learning experience was that, since I packed the leftovers for Bryan's lunch, I didn't have enough left over for dinner on Thursday.  The good news?  I had picked up salad makings and crab meat along with everything else, so while it was a light dinner, it was still healthy and satisfying.

My other learning experience was that I need to slightly over-plan sides--I got caught short on Friday, but there was leftover salad and some bread, so I made it work.

Overall, I am going to try to make menu planning a regular part of my food prep life from now on!  And on that note, here's my menu for the week!

Breakfast:  oatmeal, yogurt, or fresh fruit with 1/2 cup of cottage cheese

Lunch:  sandwich (either PBJ or ham/turkey and cheese), or leftovers (esp. left over lasagna)

Dinner:   (bring on the planning!)
Monday: Left Over Lasagna from Father's Day with green beans or broccoli
Tuesday:  Fresh Broccoli and Chicken Pasta Toss
Wednesday:  Crock Pot Enchilada Casserole with green beans
Thursday:  Salad with crab meat or left overs
Friday:  Garlicky Baked Shrimp with a side pasta and mixed veggies
Saturday and Sunday:  leftovers, salad, or out to eat

Now, I'm off to make my grocery list and get some housework done.  The truck is still out of commission, so hubby is still in my car.  But that's ok--it means we get to go to the grocery store together tonight!  Man, I love summer.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Show Us Your Life--Proposal Story

Mrs. G (not me, the other Aggie Mrs. G--whoop!) over at My Life in the Making posted her version of this post today.  The "Show Us Your Life" idea comes from another blog called Kelly's Korner, and is an every Friday post.  I've only posted with this blogring one other time, but I'm going to try to join in more regularly!

 Bryan and I met our freshman year in college in our dorm at A&M.  At our first Midnight Yell Practice, I was standing with a friend on the riser below Bryan.  The lights went down, and my friend and I had our lighters up.  The sophomore advisers were giving the boys a hard time for not "manning up" and kissing girls with raised lighters.  I heard a noise behind me and turned.  Bryan had decided to respect tradition and give me a kiss on the cheek, but he had tripped on his bleacher.  As he fell, he caught me half on the cheek, half on the mouth, and then we both ended up in a tangled heap on the riser below.  About a month after that, we started dating.

We dated all through college, with the exception of about a year, during which we both learned much about ourselves, realized we needed to grow up, and realized how much we loved one another.  During all of that, we also managed to stay best friends.

Bryan even took me to campus after I got my Aggie ring in the Spring of 2006, and took pictures of me with my new shiny.  We agreed that when he got his ring the following Spring, I would return the favor and take pictures of him.

We got back together after I returned from my stint studying abroad in Spain, at the very beginning of the Fall of 2006.  The timing was right--we had both grown up, and both realized that we were each other's match.  We couldn't see a future where we weren't together.

It wasn't very long after we got back together that Bryan started bringing up the idea of marriage.  He was all casual about it at first, with jokes and side comments.  Finally though we started discussing it in earnest.  I'll admit, I wasn't entirely convinced he was serious until he took me ring shopping in February of 2007.  After I picked out my ring, Bryan invited my mom out for lunch--just the two of them--and showed it to her, and told her his proposal plan.  Mom had to keep the whole thing secret from my Dad for about a month--I'm still not sure how she did it!  Bryan asked for my Dad's blessing while we were on a fishing trip with my parents, Spring Break of 2007.

April came around.  Bryan got his Aggie ring April 13th!  He, Mark and I, along with a bunch of our Aggie friends, dunked our rings that night. 

Then he and I got up in the morning and headed to campus so that I could take his pictures.  The weather was pretty horrible--windy and cold.  We were still having a great time, and I got some great pictures.

Then we came to Academic Plaza, where the statue of Old Sully and the Century Tree are located.  Bryan said, "Hey, I want a picture with you."  He grabbed a passerby to take the shot, and I turned towards Old Sully's statue.

Why?  Well, the Century Tree is a traditional Aggie proposal spot.  Tradition says you don't walk underneath its branches if you're single.  I had avoided doing so ever since my freshman orientation.  Call it superstitious if you will--I still say I was just honoring tradition ;-).  So, I was surprised when Bryan took my hand and redirected my steps.

I asked, "What are you doing?"  and he just said, "Come on" with that sideways, 'I'm up to something' smile he gets.  I have to admit I was kind of in a daze at this point.  My brain kept trying to catch up with what was happening.  He pulled me under the tree and knelt down on one knee, pulling a small box from his pocket.  I heard the girl who had our camera squeal and saw a flash go off.  Bryan looked up at me and said, "Kristen Marie, will you marry me?"

I stood there grinning like a fool and nodding my head frantically for a good 30 seconds before I finally remembered to say, "Yes!".  The wonderful girl with the camera took some great pictures of the whole thing.  We hugged, and took a few more pictures.  We then started walking out from under the tree, only to see a tour group standing at the end of the sidewalk, from where they had seen the whole thing.  Bryan said, "Well, she said yes!"  They all clapped and cheered, and the guide said, "And that's a great introduction to our next stop--the Century Tree".

Then my parents popped out from the entry was of the Harrington building, where they had been hiding, also taking pictures.  We all hugged and then got into the car, out of the cold, and met Bryan's mom for lunch at the Olive Garden.  It was one of the most wonderful, happiest days of my life--and very Aggie to boot!

Hawaiian Pita Pizzas

Bryan and I worked together to make Hawaiian Pita Pizzas dinner on Wednesday night!  I had found this idea on Gimme Some Oven, a wonderful food and recipe blog by Ali.  She has some wonderfully fresh and easy recipes.  I'm especially looking forward to trying out her recipe for cream cheese icing!

The great thing about Hawaiian Pita Pizzas is that making them is less a matter of recipe than it is a matter of how to.  :-)

The ingredients:
Wheat pitas
Pizza sauce
Shredded cheese
Sliced canadian bacon, or sliced ham
Chunks of pineapple

As always, the very first step is to preheat the oven--this time, to 425 degrees.  Next, lay out pitas on a cookie sheet.  It is not necessary to Pam the cookie sheet, but I always do anyway.  On our cookie sheet, we were able to fit four pitas.

The next step is to take the pizza sauce and spoon a couple of tablespoons worth onto each pita.  For the record, pizza sauce IS different from spaghetti sauce!  I'm sure most of y'all knew that already, but I sure didn't!  Lol.  I found my pizza sauce in the Italian section of the international foods row.

After spreading the sauce around evenly on each pita, line the Canadian bacon (or ham) on top.  Then, sprinkle the shredded cheese until you reach your preferred cheese thickness.

Once you are satisfied with your cheese, add on the pineapple chunks and any more slices of Canadian bacon (or ham) that you desire.

Now the pizzas are ready to pop in the oven!  Bake them for 8-12 minutes.  In my oven, 8 minutes will result in a very soft pita, 10 minutes will give you a pita with slightly crispy edges, and 12 minutes gives you very crunchy edges with a firmer center.  Regardless, they will taste wonderfully!

I used my wonderful pizza slicer to cut each pizza into quarters.  We really enjoyed making and then consuming our Hawaiian Pita Pizzas!
* You can also use this recipe to make Cheese Pita Pizzas (just leave off the Canadian bacon or ham and pineapples) or Pepperoni Pita Pizzas (leave off the pineapples and substitute pepperoni slices for the Canadian bacon or ham).  Both turn out wonderfully as well!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

On Again, Off Again

And by that, I mean my workout routine.  I did well last week, but this week I haven't been to water aerobics once!  As I mentioned previously, the red truck is out of commission.  We're pretty sure we know the problem now, so hopefully it will get fixed this weekend, but until then, Bryan is still taking my car to work.  I don't mind this whatsoever, but it has kept me from getting to the morning water aerobic classes.  I must admit, Monday I just didn't feel like going and yesterday our errand-running took more time than I had anticipated.  That said, I did work in the garden for two hours on Tuesday, so this week hasn't been an entire loss exercise-wise.

I have not been counting calories.  As I anticipated, I was able to do so consistently for about a week.  Then I fell--more like jumped--off that particular bandwagon.  That said, I have relearned portion control and my brain and my stomach are once again in agreement about controlling caloric intake.  I'll weigh in tomorrow and see how I'm doing on that front.  I hope I've at least stayed the same, but I'm worried that the lack of exercise this week (plus the piece and a half of cake I've had) might result in an unwelcome outcome.  We'll see!

Oh well, at least I haven't been missing classes because of a flare!  In fact, other than my ankle and wrist persisting in being stiff and slightly sore and puffy, I'm doing well.  At my last infusion appointment, Dr. C decided to keep my Remicade at the same level.  He's still not happy with my wrist, however.  He did want me to come back in if it had not improved within a week or so and get a corticosteroid injection--but I've been there, done that, and the effects never last more than a few days.  So, even if I had use of my car this week, I don't really want to drive an hour there and an hour back for an injection that wouldn't effect a lasting improvement.

We (Dr. C and I) are hoping that the current level of Remicade in combination with my other drugs AND (most of all) the removal of the school year stress will result in improvement in my wrist, elbow and ankle.  I still need to schedule a surgery consult on my elbow.  I'll get around to it eventually :-).

I must say that, school-related stress aside, being a stay-at-home wife this summer has been wonderful.  I have been able to break chores and gardening into manageable chunks, which lets me keep the house clean and the gardens neat without working for several hours straight, at the end of which I'd end up with stiff and swollen joints.  I also have the time to plan out some household projects, which I shall be posting about as they come around.  It's such a wonderful combination of productivity and rest that allows me to feel as if I am being effective while being able to avoid both flares and serious fatigue!    So once again, HOORAY for summer!

Garden Care

If there's one thing I neglected during the school year even more than my housework, it's my garden.  I felt really bad about it, but I simply did not have the energy to spare.  That is, until this past Tuesday!  As every morning, I got  up with Bryan at around 5:45 am and fixed his lunch and made him oatmeal (instant--the best kind! lol) and saw him off to work.  Normally, at this point, I would have gone back to bed for a few hours, but on Tuesday I just couldn't bring myself to lay back down.  My theory is that my body knew that I SHOULD have been going to water aerobics at 9, but since the truck is still out of commission, Bryan had my car.

So, I decided to actually work in my garden!  I gathered all of my things together from the various places they had ended up since my last gardening exploit and started working about 7:30 am.

Before I got started, the weeds were out of control.

My bottle brush plants had taken off, and while I was glad to see them growing in such an--enthusiastic--fashion, they really were quite out of control.  The same could be said for my loropetalums.  The bush in the front--I still don't know it's name--also needed some pruning.

The first thing I did was prune all of the above.  As I picked up the trimmings, I also weeded.  For the most part, that went smoothly.  Except for the three--THREE!--large growths of poison ivy I found!  That was disturbing--I hate that little three-leaved plant.  I got them up, roots and all, so hopefully they won't make a reappearance.  I also got the vine-grass that was growing by the mini-gardenias--that stuff has DEEP roots!

It took two hours of steady working.  Of course, I had only planned for an hour, so I got a late start on preparing the Sweet and Tangy Chicken, but overall the front gardens look much better, if I do say so myself!  But don't get me started on the back gardens...sigh.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

SlowCooker Sweet and Tangy Chicken

When Bryan and I got married a little over two years ago, I was shocked and so excited at the number of kitchen gadgets we received as gifts! While we had just moved from a 535 sq ft efficiency (yep, us and both the dogs and all our stuff--it was cosy!) into a 1 bed-room apartment, we still did not have enough room for all of our wedding presents. Many ended up collecting dust in the storage closet.

Then, 7 months later, we moved into our wonderful house! I was so excited--finally, I could start using all of my shinies! And by now, I have used most of them. Until yesterday, however, one of the exception was my shiny crockpot with removable ceramic bowl! I finally took this bad boy out of it's box (and Styrofoam and plastic wrap) and fired it up to make my planned Tuesday night dinner--SlowCooker Sweet and Tangy Chicken!

I found this recipe over on Beth's blog, Beth's Favorite Recipes.  She posts a different recipe everyday, and all the ones I have tried have been fantastic!

The very first thing was to get out my Crock Pot booklet and RTFI, as my hubby would say.  (For those of you unfamiliar with this acronym, in means Read The F***ing Instructions lol).  I then moved on to tackling the recipe!

Head's up:  This recipe takes 8 to 9 hours to cook, so plan prep time accordingly!  I cut it too close, and ended up having to move dinner back 30 minutes lol.

4-8 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 18 ounce bottle honey flavored barbecue sauce
1 20 ounce can pineapple chunks with juice
1 green bell pepper -- chopped ( Beth used 1/2 red and 1/2 green for color)
1 onion -- chopped
2 cloves garlic -- minced

I used 6 chicken breasts total for this meal.  We were having Bouncer and Alicia over for dinner, so I wanted to make sure we had enough.  The first step was to prepare half of the chicken breasts to go into the crock pot.  The recipe gave to options--divide the chicken breasts into halves OR cube them.  I was cutting it close as far as the cooking start time went, so I figured cubing them would be the better option (cubed chicken cooks faster, at least in my limited experience). 

Granted, calling what I did "cubing" is probably being generous.  Correctly cut cubes of chicken are about 1-inch, well, cubes.  My weren't anywhere so neat.  Let's call what I did "chunking" chicken.Once I had three chicken breasts chunked, I put the meat in the bottom of the crock pot. 

Next, I mixed up the sauce.  First came the 18 ounces of honey barbecue sauce.

Then the 20 ounce can of pineapple chunks with juice.  I made sure to buy the can that had REAL juice in it, instead of syrup.  I'm sure the syrup would have made for a thicker, sweeter sauce, but I didn't want it to be too sweet.  As it was, it turned out plenty sweet with just the juice, so success!

Next I chopped up the green bell pepper and the onion and added them into the sauce.  I chose not to use half green, half red because, frankly, the red bell peppers were more expensive at the store that day, and I wasn't all that worried about color. 

I spooned in the two cloves of minced garlic.  For the record, 1 clove of garlic equals about half a tablespoon.  (Yes, I know it says it on the jar, but I can't tell you the number of times I've forgotten that it does and spent ten minutes trying to figure out the conversion! lol).  Using a wooden spoon, I mixed everything together thoroughly.

The next step is to pour HALF of the sauce into the crock pot, on top of the layer of chicken.  Then, you get to divide or cube (or chunk!) the remaining chicken breasts.  Put that meat on top of the sauce layer, and then dump the rest of the sauce in on top! 

Set your crock pot to low, and set the timer for somewhere between 8-9 hours.  I ended up cooking mine (remember, I chunked the chicken to help it cook faster) for 8 hours and 15 minutes, and it was wonderful!

I served it on top of Uncle Ben's 90 second rice (whoop! for easy rice!) alongside green beans.  I would advise getting at least 3 bags of the instant rice--I only grabbed two and it was JUST enough.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it...I know I did!  And the great thing?  Even after feeding four people (with one person going back for seconds) we still have leftovers! 
*My husband is sticking is tongue out at the camera, not the food!  I promise!  lol


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