Family?

What classifies a “family?”  In the years that have passed since my cancer diagnosis and subsequent fertility journey I have received lots of mail for different reasons.  Lots of weddings and holidays have passed since then and each time we get a card in the mail it is addressed to ‘Dave and Lindsay LeBlanc’ and the return address often states “From the ___________family”  I can’t lie, this stings…a lot.  I consider Dave and Diesel (our dog) as my family, but when I get a card in the mail addressed to Dave and I directly I can’t help but feel I am reminded that to others, in fact, we may not be.  I feel like society has conditioned us (myself included) to think that a family consists of parents and kids, but how sad for people who choose not to have children, or for others who for whatever reason cannot have kids, to think that your “family” is less of family because there are no children.  Maybe I’m reading to much into this and it’s just convienient to write, “The Smith Family” when it includes more than two names?  I know that I am definitely hyper sensitive to these little details to which I may never have given a second thought before, and oddly enough if it comes addressed to us directly from people who are married with no children I don’t take as much offence as I do when it comes from people with children, but it is one that haunts me and jabs my heart everytime.

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Short and Sweet

I recently got in touch with an old boss of mine.  She was an amazing boss, and I can say that with complete honesty (since we don’t work together anymore it’s not like Im trying to get a promotion ;) )   Anyways, it’s been a few years since we’d last seen or talked to each other so of course the first question is always “what have you been up to?”  My reply wasn’t what she was expecting I’m sure, instead I was honest, told her about my (successful) battle with cancer and some of the other things I’ve been up to since then and of course asked how she was and what she had been up to these last few years.  Her reply wasn’t what I’d expected either.  Of course she mentioned some of the things you’d expect to hear about (kids, work etc) but at the end of her message she wrote:

” Life happens and we just have to go with the flow. It’s not a race….its a marathon of learning and experiences”.

Truer words have never been spoken, and it was exactly what I needed to hear to remind myself to keep going.

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Bittersweet Birthday?

Sorry I haven’t written anything in a while, for some reason I couldn’t log into my blog for about a month? weird! There has also been a ton of stuff going on in my head.  So here it goes, the ramblings in my head written here, maybe it will help bring some clarity? Let’s hope…

This coming Sunday is my 28th birthday. You would think as someone in remission from cancer that with each passing birthday I would want to jump up and down- I made it! Another year in the books! Woo hoo, right?! But this birthday I want to do quite the opposite. I would rather not even acknowledge it and hide in corner.  I’m the person who always has a plan, and usually I work damn hard to make sure that I achieve whatever it is I set out to do. My plan was to finish my degree, get married and then have children.  Check, check and….???  I was 25 when I was diagnosed with cancer, that was almost 3 years ago! Three years of dealing with doctors, and hospitals, and letting go of control almost entirely and putting my life, and any future life I may have, in the hands of people who I had only met 10 minutes prior.  In the beginning I was head strong, not taking no for an answer, after all that is how we ended up with our blastocysts.  The fighter in me wanted to keep fighting, to have this life I had planned for myself  no matter what stood in my way, and every birthday I have celebrated since then has been a big deal, especially after finding out my cancer had come back.

My26th Birthday was a month after my hysterectomy, and last year I walked in the survivor lap of the Relay for Life determined that that year would be better

I feel ungrateful in some respects for not wanting my birthday to come. As a two time cancer survivor I KNOW that it is a privilege to grow older. But this birthday seems to be especially hard because it is a reminder of the things I have yet to accomplish, the things I have had to let go of and  perhaps the hardest of all- I find myself acknowledging more and more that that life I  had planned, may never happen.   Even as I write those last words I start to cry, I truly cannot imagine a life without our children (our= mine and Dave).  In the last three years I have endured many other people’s pregnancy announcements and I just find myself more and more bitter. And to be honest, it’s more than just not having the family we so desperately want.  We decided to sell our house to help cover some of our costs and we leased Dave’s car to someone else.  So here we sit, almost 28 and 31 respectively with none of the things we wanted to accomplish in our married lives accomplished.

There is something I haven’t mentioned yet- Dave and I are lucky enough that in March of this year we found a surrogate (it is someone we know)  and agreed to a contract and even got so far as to complete a transfer! Unfortunately, the two blastocysts we transferred did not result in a pregnancy :(   That has been by far the hardest thing to date.  The Dr. isn’t sure why neither of them took, everything looked great both for our surrogate and the blastocysts.   With another Mother’s and Father’s Day passed, and birthdays for both of us looming around the corner, I can’t help but want to fast forward through all of this, I’m so tired of being sad and wanting something so badly that I don’t go more than an hour each day without thinking about it. Maybe if I had accomplished other things in my life I could at least be content while we wait for our child(ren)? Who knows….

It’s hard to hear friends planning for first, or even second babies because I know for us that will come down to money and a finite number of embryos. It’s hard to have people you barely know ask you how long  you’ve been married or how old you are an then give you this accusing, crazy look when they ask, “and you don’t have ANY kids?”  I want to scream at them and tell them why, and make them feel stupid for even asking such a dumb question…but I don’t. I go home and cry and keep wishing that this part of my life would just fix itself so I can move forward and stop hating birthdays and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.   I want the fighter in me to come back, to not be so pessimistic and keep thinking that this WILL happen (hopefully sooner rather than later) I want it all back, my life and my more importantly my spirit, before cancer was a part of my life story because I feel in a way I have let it beat me, maybe not physically, but definitely emotionally. Maybe this year will bring us some of those things…

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” An Evening of Hope”

When Dave and I were in the early stages of IVF we learned of a company called Fertile Future.  Fertile Future is a national charitable organization that assists with fertility preservation for cancer patients.

We spoke with Executive Director, Liz Ellwood, in 2010 about the time we began our IVF journey.  She told us about a bursary that they were developing to help ease some of the financial burden faced by cancer patients who choose to undergo IVF to preserve fertility. Now two years later their “Power of Hope” cost reduction program is up and running! This is GREAT news for cancer patients looking to build families with the help of ART!

More recently, I was contacted by Andrea Unikowsky.  Andrea is co-chairing an event on May 10 for Fertile Future called, “An Evening of Hope”.  The event promises to be an evening of fun and entertainment.  There will be a live artist painting to the inspiration of a concert pianist, delicious food and wine, and the MC for the event will be CTV’s, Anwar Knight, a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor himself.

In addition to the wonderful food and entertainment provided, there will be speakers, raffles and a silent auction.  One Toronto based lawyer is even auctioning off a surrogacy (or egg donor) contract, so a lucky intended parent has the opportunity to bid on the contract and get a great price!

The event itself is being held on Thursday May 10, 2012 at 7:30 pm at the University of Toronto’s Hart House.  Tickets are $100/each or $170/pair.  You can find out more information for this wonderful event here.

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A Tofu How to

Today I got a call from my friend, Kathryn, who’s coworker, Suzanne, had some tofu questions.  I don’t remember if I’ve ever written about my first experience with tofu, but it was NOT GOOD! I had no clue about the different types of tofu and that some were better suited for entrees than desserts etc, and I could not for the life of me figure out what to do with all the freaking water they pack it in.  Needless to say we bought dessert tofu, and did not press out the water very well that took well over an hour to cook!  What we ended up with was a slimy, disgusting mess that we both swore we would never eat again! Oh boy!

Fast forward to present day, and what I swore I’d never eat again has become one of my favourite foods!

Dave and I use it for a lot of different things, frozen dessert, chocolate pudding, as a creamy “cheese” substitute in things like lasagna, croutons for our vegan caesar salad and just plain on its own.  We really only buy 3 kinds: firm, extra firm and silken dessert tofu.  The firm one we buy comes packed in a ton of water, the extra firm doesn’t have quite as much and the silken dessert one we buy comes in a box, but all 3 we find in our refrigerated section (although I’ve seen other silken ones just on the shelf in the aisle too).

When we first started cooking tofu  I found other vegetarian/vegan blogs that explained how to prepare/cook the tofu that made it taste so much better!  Daily Garnish has a really good tofu tutorial here, that describes how to press tofu if you don’t have a press already.  Dave and I used this method for probably close to a year, but the amount of towels/paper towel we went through was insane trying to soak up all the water and since I have a super smart husband he figured we had to be able to make our own tofu press somehow- and he did! FOR CHEAP!!!!!

Our tofu press is 2 small plastic cutting boards with 4 holes drilled in the corners of each board.  Then he used 4 carriage bolts and 4 wing nuts so we could screw it down tighter to press the block of tofu.

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From both angles for Suzanne :)

This whole press cost under $8!!! Yippee! And it’s amazing!!

All you do is place the tofu in between the cutting boards and twist the wing nuts down until there is pressure on the block. Let it sit for a while on a plate/on top of a bowl (so it collects the water) then tighten it some more until there isn’t much water dripping out. For the best results I like to leave it pressed overnight and then let it sit in the marinade for the day so it’s absorbed all the flavour at the end of the day when I’m ready to cook it.

The more water you can get pressed out the crispier the tofu will be (which is the way I like it best).  My favourite way to eat it is seasoned with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, cooked on med heat in a frying pan. Other (probably more healthy) ways to cook it is by baking it with whatever marinade you plan to use :)

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456 Chili

Basically, 3 days in to eating a plant-based diet Dave turned and said to me that we HAD to find a good chili recipe.  He loves chili and just about anything made in a slow cooker. That was almost TWO years ago, whoops! We’d talked about making some a lot over the course of the last two year but for some reason just never saw it through.  I figured, since yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday, that that would be as good a time as any to try a good chili recipe- and GOOD, it was!

Inspired by Oh She Glows Protein Power Chili with Walnut Burger Crumbles

We called it 456 Chili- 4 hours, 5 veggies, 6 beans!

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456 Chili 

Ingredients

1 can stewed tomatoes

1/2 jar of mild salsa

2 jars of strained tomatoes

1/4 cup of chili powder

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp chili pepper flakes

2 tbsp oregano

1 tsp cumin

3 bay leaves

1 tbsp non-dairy margarine or butter (i.e. Earth Balance)

1tsp of bbq sauce (we used jalapeno hot sauce)

1 block of extra firm tofu, crumbled (optional)

2 onions, diced

4 tbsp garlic, minced

1 red pepper, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 container (227g) white mushrooms, sliced or chopped

3 celery stalked, chopped

1 can kidney beans

1 can pinto beans

1 can black beans

1 can navy beans

1/2 can chicpeas

1/2 can fava beans

1/2 can whole kernel corn

salt and pepper to taste

Directons

Turn crock pot setting to high

Pour strained tomatoes, stewed tomatoes and salsa in the crock pot

Add in dry spices (chili powder,cayenne, oregano, cumin, chili flakes, bay leaves,salt and pepper) along with 2 tbsp of minced garlic

Add in your chopped celery to your crock pot

Next, in a hot pan over medium heat, add diced onion and garlic with a bit of olive oil

Blot as much moisture out of tofu as you can with some paper towel and crumble it into the pan

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Next, add in your bbq sauce, and stir occasionally until tofu is golden brown

Once tofu is golden brown add the pan of onion, garlic and tofu to the crock pot, stir

Return pan to heat and a tbsp of non-dairy margarine/butter (i.e. Earth Balance)

Add in your chopped peppers and mushrooms and sautee only for 2-3 minutes, then add those ingredients in to your crock pot, stir

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Next, strain and rinse your beans then add those to the crock pot as well, stir well

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Finally, add in your corn and fold it into your crock pot

Place lid on crock pot and let it cook away

I promise the wait and effort will be worth it! It made up for the Patriots loss.

We had our chili alongside these Herb Garlic Knots (minus the parm), also from Oh She Glows- these went SO well together!

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Special thanks to Dave for helping me fold these!

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SO GOOD!

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A Week in the Life of Vegan Eating: Day 5 Lunch

Yay for super quick, very filling, delicious lunches from the Vitamix!  Today we had minestrone soup compliments of my Vitamix recipe book.

This soup took a total of about 10 minutes from start to finish, and I think, would be easy to recreate using a hand blender, or food processor if you don’t have a Vitamix.

Soup

Minestrone Soup (Says it makes 8 cups)

2 cups veggie broth

4 fresh tomatoes, quartered

1 garlic clove (we put in 2)

1/2 small carrot

1 small onion peeled and halved

1 celery stalk

1/8 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup chick peas, drained and rinsed

1 cup zucchini, diced and steamed

1 cup kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup canned corn drained (we actually didn’t have this, but it still turned out great)

Directions

Place all ingredients, except the last 4, in your Vitamix or pot (if using a pot be sure to chop/dice all veggies first)

If using a Vitamix select variable 1, then turn on machine and slowly increase to 10.

Blend all ingredients for about 6-7 minutes or until you start to see steam

The add in steamed zucchini, kidney beans, chick peas and corn

If using a Vitamix blend for 15-20 secondss

If using a pot, stir ingredients until warmed.

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A Week in the Life of Vegan Eating: Day 5 Breakfast

No long explanation this morning, gotta run out the door in about 5 minutes, but since I missed posting my dinner last night (oops!) I wanted to be sure and get this one up.  I work up really craving some sort of oatmeal this morning, so we made Oh She Glows Banana Split Vegan Overnight Oatmeal!

Since I didn’t plan ahead and soak everything the night before we made this a warm version, freshly cooked on the stovetop. We added in the almond milk and spices and then added in the oats and cooked it on medium for about 8 or so minutes. In place of maple syrup we used Agave Nectar and stirred it into the oatmeal while it was cooking.  We also chose to leave out the chocolate protein powder and instead added about a tsp of cinnamon for some extra flavour :) Delicious!

These 3 things (plus the banana) are what make this oatmeal recipe incredible!

Ingredients PIc

And the end result is this!

Banana Split Oatmeal

Banana Split for breakfast- yes please!

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A Week in the Life of Vegan Eating: Day 4 Lunch

I’ve never really been a big fan of lunch.  When I was younger, my poor mom had such a tough time trying to figure out what to send me to school with.  Even on days when I helped pick/make my lunch for school I often came home with most things untouched.  To be honest, I still haven’t really figured out what it is I don’t like and in truth, I would rather just snack throughout the afternoon than make a real “lunch’.  However,  obviously now that I’m older I know it’s better to eat something around lunch hour, but some days are easier than others.

Today’s lunch was taken from Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet book- Vegan Caesar Salad.  When I first bought her book a little over a year ago this was one of the first recipes we tried.  It was was one of the most familiar and both Dave and I really like the traditional version of this meal. To be honest, you can’t even tell that there is anything vegan about this- so it’s a great item to serve to people are slightly unsure about eating any vegan food! The book is also filled with a ton of other great recipes as well!

Caesar Salad

Vegan Caesar Salad

1 cup Veganaise

1 1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard

1 clove garlic (we usually add in 2 ’cause I like my garlic)

1 tbsp water

1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast

salt and pepper to taste

I’m not quite sure how many this would serve because it really depends on the size of your salad. We also like to sprinkle nutritional yeast on top for some extra ‘cheesy’ flavour. Mmm :)

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A Week in the Life of Vegan Eating: Day 4 Breakfast

This morning my lovely mom joined us for breakfast.  Toby and Mitch, her dogs, have their vet appointment tonight in town so they are visiting for the day and having a play day with Diesel- that will make one very tired puppy by tonight :)

We made another smoothie this morning- The Spicy Date (from the Vitamix recipe book)

Spicy Date Smoothie

Spicy Date Smoothie  (Serves 1)

1 cup of unsweetened almond milk

3 Dates, pitted

1 banana, peeled and frozen

1/8 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp raw oats

1 tsp flax

2 ice cubes

This smoothie was DE-LI-CIOUS!! Both Dave and Mike said it reminded them of some sort of Christmas drink. Definitely one we’ll have again.

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