Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Year in Review

Like Stephanie who writes the 100 Cancer Resolutions blog and unlike every new year since I was about 12 years old, I decided not to write resolutions for 2012. With the Funky Sexy Manifesto and the gazillion to-do lists I create on a daily basis, there were enough things to resolve. Instead, I am going to take a tip from Kris Carr of Crazy Sexy Life and write my own Year in Review. (If you search some of these items, you will find that I blogged about them. All blogged about items are marked with an asterisk *.

My 2011 began with a vision which can be best expressed with this Visioning Board/Collage. I created this board a few days before my surgery to depict how I wanted to go through this cancer journey. I wanted to go through it with strength, resilience, confidence, healthiness, grace, creativity, and tenacity. Whenever I needed a healing inspiration, these images and words were helped me on the way.

- took a sick leave from my full-time teaching job to prepare for my surgery
- got sick with a bad cold the week before my surgery so I ended up taking off sooner
- I had surgery to remove my thyroid gland (total thyroidectomy) and 3 parathyroid glands which resulted in a longer hospital stay due to hypocalcemia (low calcium levels) *
- my one remaining parathyroid gland kicked in a few months later and my calcium levels are back to normal *

- started attending CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers) monthly meetings only two weeks after my surgery (Boy, was I crazy!)
- healing, reading, journaling, and cooking
- where is Thyrogen? *

- healing, reading, journaling, cooking, and crying
- where the hell is Thyrogen? *
- getting second and third opinions
- became vegan for Lent and now Vegan 4 Life *

- where is the blasted Thyrogen?
- created Blue Butterfly blog *
- began the low iodine diet (LID) to prepare for my radioactive iodine (RAI) while being vegan (Aaaahhhh!!! That's a scream by the way.) *
- I swallowed the pill of RAI administered and I was in radioactive isolation for four days over the Easter weekend *

- went to court to appeal decision on my sick benefits *
- began to reach out and get support from this journey by attending groups, classes, and workshops through Wellspring Cancer Support Centre and other organizations *

- attended the Young Adult Cancer Canada Retreat East 2011 in Gros Morne Park, Newfoundland *

- visited Ottawa with my sister
- did my whole body scan *

- reintroduced regular exercise in my recovery (Fuck you cancer!) *

- writing articles for Karma Food Co-op Bulletin (I'm writing articles, again!)
- entered the Burrito Bonanza Contest that was organized by Vida Vegan Con Conference and lost *

- wrote my first Vex in the City vegan restaurant review *

- visited Montreal with friends *

- visited New York City with my fiance and got to see family and relatives *

- got my whole body scan results which showed no spread (Yay!!!) so I think this means I am technically in remission. I began the journey of survivorship as well as lots of medical follow-up *

- organized I CanSurvive Picnic to celebrate the results of my scan, celebrate my birthday, and raise money for Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) *

- start of my Funky Sexy Manifesto (Survivor Resolutions) *
- began to get injections for Meaty (my keloid TT scar) to shrink him down and began a series of Meaty posts *

- attended a writing retreat *

- moved my sister into her dorm room in Ottawa

- applied to Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia (UBC) *
- after a short return to full-time work (my day job is a teacher) in September, decided to continue part-time for health reasons

- did my first speaking engagement at Satisfying Her Soul *

- Voice Therapy *
- begun a course, Writing for Children Part 2
- did my second speaking engagement at the Art for Cancer Foundation Gala *
- raised money for Wellspring by running a 5K of Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon*

- fundraising bake sale for Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) Climb *

- attend the Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) Survivors' Conference in Ottawa, ON *

- went to court to challenge traffic ticket and cop did not show up *
- was asked by Thyroid Cancer Canada (TCC) to be their new News Editor and Newsletter Committee Chair. I accepted.

- found out I didn't get into the MFA but will apply to other programs in 2012 *

What a busy year! Lots to look forward to in 2012. Stay tuned...

Blue Butterfly Best of 2011

I have been noticing a lot of BEST OF 2011 everywhere I go so I decided that I should do a "Best Of..." for this blog based on the Stats for the most popular posts from you my readers. The BEST OF... posts listed below had the highest number of pageviews based on the statistics pages of my blog.

Now ladies and gentlemen I present to you, the BLUE BUTTERFLY BEST OF 2011 (based on what you like to read most).

10. Butterfly Tales

9. Blue Butterfly Photos

8. Thyroid Cancer Patient Forum June 14

7. A Tribute to Jack Layton

6. Sofia Vergara Talks about her Thyroid Cancer

5. Wellspring Thyroid Patients' Forum June 14

4. Why Did I Get Thyroid Cancer?

3. Funky Sexy Vegan (Vegan Photo Album 3)

2. CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Butterfly Tales

And the BLUE BUTTERFLY for the MOST POPULAR POST goes to... (drum roll please)
1. Funky Sexy Manifesto #2 Visit a Nude Beach

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Comfort Zone (Vegan Photo Album 6)

Remember this one by Vanessa Williams? The Comfort Zone

I decided that the final vegan photo album of 2011 would feature some tasty comfort foods. I learned today that Canadians eat more macaroni and cheese than anyone else. Sadly, there will be no macaroni and cheese in this photo album but if you are so inclined, you may check out some hot pics of macaroni cheese and macaroni pie. You will find lots and lots of comfort foods like slow cooker stews (thank God for this appliance), chocolate chip cookies, brownies, pizza, lasagna, and Shepherd's pie. These dishes are completely perfect for filling tummies and keeping you warm on a chilly night. (This post was a bit challenging as I had some difficulty uploading photos. Unfortunately there were some photos I just could not access however all of the delicious meals are here.)

Southern Fried Tofu, Yam Sweet Yam, and Crispy Fried Cauliflower from The Vegan Soulfood Guide to the Galaxy by Afya Ibomu
I have to admit, I went a little crazy with this dish. I was craving some deep fried breaded goodness and Afya knows how to do it up well. The southern fried tofu was good but I do not like how the colour came out. I am thinking this was attributed to frying the cauliflower first and then using the same oil to fry the tofu afterward. The same oil! Not such a great idea. When you use fried oil, it quickly becomes cloudy and full of debris (i.e., pieces of flour, crispy bits that start to burn). I did love the cauliflower however which was not crispy but definitely tasty. The candied sweet potatoes aka Yam Sweet Yams were scrumptious, sweet, and so tasty. Since I grew up with Jamaican cuisine and ate my share of yams (e.g., negro, yellow), I know that there is a distinct difference between these and sweet potatoes. Yams tend to be more bitter and vary in texture.

Moroccan-Inspired Lentil Stew from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson
Mmmm... a lovely combination of sweet and sour and spicy from the plump sultana raisins, dried fruit and cinnamon, tangy apple juice, and cayenne. What a lovely tasty dish!

Big Stick Pepperoni from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson
Who knew that you could still eat pepperoni as a vegan? I must admit that I was very doubtful about this dish and avoided making pepperoni for a long time. I thought the recipe would take a long time, be extremely complicated, and produce mediocre results. Thankfully, I was sadly mistaken. Sadly... and happily, I re-discovered pepperoni. The spicy and licorice-y taste combined with the tough fibrous texture of pepperoni can be achieved without meat. Liquid smoke, fennel seeds, and pepper (cayenne, crushed red pepper, black pepper) can all take the credit. I loved opening the foil and finding fully formed pepperoni sticks. It is possible!!!

Sauxsage Pizza and Pizza Dough Crust from Vegan Soulfood Guide to the Galaxy by Afya Ibomu
I made this dish completely from scratch except I used Black Bean veggie patties cut up for the "sauxsage". It was very tasty and meaty and of course, I can't forget the Daiya cheese.

Torta Rustica from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson
This dish was very, very labour intensive. First of all, it called for 1 recipe of Double Pie Crust. As a result, you can find actual holes in the seams of the "torta" or pie and on the sides and it was really thin at places. (It burst from its seams.) Since I used a springform pan to bake the pie, I would definitely use 2 recipes of Double Pie Crust in the future. The pie was savoury, mild in flavour, and very tomato-y. It's the type of meal which could use A-LOT of hot sauce on top. This dish contained the Big Stick pepperoni but you could barely taste it.

Smoky Red Bean Chili with Chipotle-Cornbread Dumplings from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson
This very interesting stew was made by capitalizing on the smoky nature of chipotle and liquid smoke. The cornbread dumplings were a nice added touch. Having grown up eating Jamaican soups on Saturdays, the dumplings were always my favourite part of the dish like little floating presents bobbing along in my bowl. This dish was conveniently made in the slow-cooker which I love. Just chop up the ingredients, add the spices and stock, then I go to sleep and wake up to a lovely meal.

Deluxe Vegetable Lasagna from Vegan On the Cheap by Robin Robertson
This lasagna was unique in that I used both the recommended Cauliflower topping (which simulated cheese) plus actual Daiya cheese. It tasted pretty good and mild in flavour but again required a good measure of hot sauce. Hot sauce brings out the flavour where it's lacking in my books.

Three Spicy Sisters Stew from Vegan On the Cheap from Robin Robertson
This was a very natural and healthy tasting dish. It just made me think of the harvest and autumn. The three "sisters" are corn, beans, and squash in many Aboriginal traditions. This is a perfect, lazy slow cooker meal!!!

Chocolate Chip Cookies from Farm Sanctuary by Gene Baur
I did not expect to find a chocolate chip cookie recipe in a book about animal rights but that I did. The dough in this recipe was a lot drier than I experienced in making other cookie recipes. Even when I baked them and took one bite, I noticed two things. First, there was a drier and more crumbly texture. Second, a huge burst of chocolate thanks to tasty fairtrade Camino chips.

More Pizza with store-bought crust from Vegan Soulfood Guide to the Galaxy by Afya Ibomu
Here is where I put the Big Stick Pepperoni to the test by seeing if it tastes good on pizza. It does!!!! I used a store bought dough to prepare the crust which saved me loads of time. Unfortunately, I waited a long time to use it and the dough got a bit dry and lost some of its elasticity. I need some help from my fiance to get the crust to lie flat.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Chocolate Glaze from Vegan On the Cheap by Robin Robertson
I couldn't wait to make this cake. I love me some pumpkin and I thought my co-workers would too. i decided to prepare this cake for my staff holiday social. So I proceeded to make the cake on one day to allow it to cool. Then I made the chocolate glaze on the following day to place on the cake. It looked good so far. Never, I mean never, bake a cake you must transport in a springform pan. As I lifted the pan into the bag, I held the bottom which sprang up, launching the cake into the air and flipped over, face down onto the floor. I screamed and wailed, near tears. My first instinct was to pick it up quickly and use the ten second rule which is if it is on the floor shorter than ten seconds, it is still okay and not dirty. This logic may have worked when I was six but not when I am in my thirties preparing a dish for my co-workers. So, I sadly picked up the cake which had broken in two pieces and actually pulled out my spoon. I am so embarrassed to say that I did the unthinkable. I took my spoon and ate mouthfuls of the cake that fell on the floor. Logic did not come into my mind. I had to taste this cake. I didn't think about when was the last time I mopped the kitchen floor or the occasions my fiance and I wore shoes in the kitchen or the fact that we have two cats who run throughout the house and shed like crazy. Yuck! I'm becoming disgusted thinking about it. (I'm quite a germaphobe.) So my judgment was clouded and I took a few bites of the cake which featured stellar icing but a slight dry tasteless pumpkin texture. The cake was not pumpkin-y. Unfortunately, I was asleep by the time my fiance came home and what he thought was my lovely cake. He had a piece without any thought and it was not until a few days later when he found out that he had eaten a whole piece of the ill-fallen cake. Eventually, when my senses reached me, I decided to dispose of this broken cake. Thankfully, we did not catch any illnesses or disease from this cake. So I guess the 10 Second Rule still works.

The broken pathetic cake was transferred quickly to a pan covered with patty crumbs. (Thankfully I had also made Jamaican beef patties from Caribbean Vegan for my staff holiday social. I redeemed my culinary skills)

Marcus, my cat, is curious about the chocolate glaze on the floor.

Tempeh Pot au Feu from Vegan On the Cheap by Robin Robertson

Walnut-Crusted Seitan with Spinach and Orange from Vegan On the Cheap by Robin Robertson
This dish rocks!!!! The crust was delectable and on the seitan it reminded me of eating breaded chicken. The dish was originally designed for tofu but I've been trying to cutdown on soy products so seitan was perfect and worked well. Unfortunately, some of the photographs of the finished product did not come out. So just picture the seitan on top of the spinach and orange served on top of brown rice.

Smoky Southwest Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie from <span style="font-weight:bold;">Vegan On the Cheap by Robin Robertson
Warm and cozy and tasty. I could not find any black beans so I used red kidney beans instead which I know lend to a southwest flavour. This dish was very spicy and did not require any hot sauce at all. The sweet potato topping was warm, creamy, and sweet-- a perfect comfort dish.

Carob Brownies Square from Vegan Soulfood Guide to the Galaxy by Afya Ibomu
I love carob in small increments and I can never eat too much of it. Carob is a good substitute for chocolate since it is not as heavy or filling or calorie-rich however since I eat more of it. There was a time when I ate so much carob that I could barely look at it again. So I was a little hesitant to use carob for a brownie recipe. The result? Amazing!!! These brownies were very sweet and had the same texture as the chocolate variety but were much lighter. (So you eat more and do not feel as full.) I served these brownies with soy- and coconut-based ice creams at Christmas eve dinner with my fiance and mother-in-law. When making this dish, I ran short of maple syrup so I substituted with agave nectar.

Spinach Pie from Vegan On the Cheap by Robin Robertson
I could not make this dish. I love spanikopita which is a Greek spinach pie. The key to the perfect spinach pie is the crust and feta cheese inside. My Spinach Pie turned out picture perfect. I used 1/2 the Double Crust recipe which was sufficient and turned out light and perfect. (This does not always happen when making a crust.) The only imperfection were the mushrooms. I had them stored in paper bags for the first time and they dried out completely. So to compensate, I used frozen spinach that was not thawed or dried to lend its moisture. (The spinach came in nuggets. I've never seen this before.) I also added a little water to the spinach-mushroom mixture which helped. Nevertheless, the mushrooms added a chewy texture. The cheese was achieved with cashews, tofu, soy milk, nutritional yeast, and mustard. The final dish was warm, tasty, and so satisfying. The saltiness was perfect and reminded me of feta.