Sunday, September 30, 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007
Child Number Three decided to make her very own sign. She said that the yellow parts are "Whymommy's happy face!"
Our school backs onto a large park. When the starting whistle blew, the entire school population shot towards the trails, which wind around a pond...
Child Number Three decided to walk the whole way...
The weather couldn't have been nicer, and with all the leaves beginning to change colour, the scenery was just beautiful. I carried copies of Whymommy's blog post in my purse,
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Well, she's done it again... That Whymommy. Just when I think she can't overwhelm me any MORE, she goes and does something ELSE:
Apparently, I make this extraordinary woman smile. I simply cannot think of a higher compliment. Thank-you AGAIN, Whymommy...
And, in case you all are wondering, Whymommy is doing GREAT THINGS these days...
Hopefully, many of you went out and bought October's Parents Magazine, as they did a feature on Whymommy and provided information about Inflammatory Breast Cancer (yes, amidst treatments and recovery, and on top of spending quality time with her beautiful family, she found the time to GIVE AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW... Trust me, people, it's worth the read).
Her cancer is also responding to treatment, which is the most incredible news!! In her words:
I didn’t know I’d live to see the Fall.
When I was diagnosed on June 16 (a date that will be forever etched in my mind, as the day my world came crashing down) it was somewhat of a death sentence. Although the outlook is not as bleak as it once was, survival rates for women with my cancer — inflammatory breast cancer — are only 25-50% at 5 years; survivors at 10 years are still recounted by name (”Well, there’s Susan D, and Sally X, and they did it!” said in a falsely chipper voice). 90% of IBC survivors will suffer a recurrence. Treatment is an ardous melange of chemotherapy, masectomy, more chemotherapy, perhaps a prophalactic masectomy on the other side, and radiation. Often, the treatment goes in cycles, with survivors fighting the cancer and surviving chemotherapy for the rest of their lives.
Sometimes, there is no rest of their lives. Because of delays in diagnosis and treatment, it is not uncommon for IBC survivors to not make it 3 months past diagnosis.
I have survived 3 months. I am doing … well, I suppose, in that today I am not worse off than I was when I had my first chemo treatment. I’m no better yet, but the spread of the cancer since diagnosis has been stopped (whoo-hoo!), and the inflammation is on the retreat.
I am tired. My arm and upper chest hurt, from nerve damage or sheer muscle fatigue of hauling around this heavy cancerous tumor that once was my right breast. My hair is gone. My arms are bruised from the weekly needle sticks and IVs that are essential for the treatment and monitoring of the treatment. (I don’t have a medi-port put in, for valid reasons having to do with the spread of IBC through cut skin. It would make treatment easier, but perhaps less successful. The survival rates for this disease did not rise from zero until they stopped cutting first and started treating with neoadjuvant chemotherapy, which means chemo first, then sugery. So I have chosen not to have a port put in, to improve my chances.) My fingernails are discolored and weakening. My gums are dry and tender. My eyebrows are falling out.
But I — me — the I inside — am doing well these days. I’m up and around and going to playdates. I’m holding my baby and hugging my child. I’ve cared for my kids myself the past several days, with WonderDaddy’s help but not all the time. I even cooked last night.
I’m getting better.
To top everything off, Whymommy has just announced that she will be taking part in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Hunt Valley, Maryland next month! I would give my eye teeth to be there with her (and given my psychotic aversion to dentistry, this is really saying something, people).
Although I confess to wistfully looking into babysitting, arranging passports and airline flights... I know in my head that it will take something akin to magic to actually get me to Maryland for a weekend next month.
So, my girlies and I are taking matters into our own hands. Tomorrow is our public school's annual Terry Fox Run, which raises money for the Canadian Cancer Society. We have decided that we are going to do the run, all four of us, in honour of Whymommy. We're getting a big pink sign ready to pin to the front of our stroller, and I will be fully prepared to answer any and all questions I get from parents, teachers and students alike, about our own little "Team Whymommy". Because spreading information about Inflammatory Breast Cancer, its signals and symptoms, is an enormous part of the life-saving process.
We're running for YOU, Whymommy... Because you're not just fighting for your own life, you're fighting for ALL of us.
Thank you... We love you--
xo CGF and Girlies 3
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I will always remember that an enormous print of this painting graced a wall in my small-town Ontario junior public school... The only other major work of art (that was not done by students) was a photograph of Queen Elizabeth II! You can guess which image we Canadian kids preferred to look at...
Posted by Candygirlflies at 9:48 AM
Monday, September 24, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
I love food. I enjoy entertaining, and feeding people. Perfectly prepared food has incredible power: it excites the senses and brings people together. It can comfort and soothe the troubled soul. It nourishes on many, many levels.
I am always interested in combining different ingredients to create new variations on recipes, and creating different taste sensations. But, I have also discovered that there are some recipes that just can't be improved upon, because they have already reached their ultimately perfect potential. And the majority of those recipes come from my mother's kitchen.
My mother is, bar none, the finest cook that our family has ever produced. She can do it all, people. She can perfectly scramble an egg into a light, fluffy, yet slightly creamy consistency (don't ask me how she does it, I've been watching her technique for YEARS, and still can't get it exactly right). She can coax the most beautiful, pneumatic cheese souffles to arise out of a casserole dish, and serve it to a brunch crowd before it's had the slightest chance to deflate. She can create the most enormous, crusty loaves of bread, and the aroma produced while they bake has been known to rouse small children from their sleep (the dough takes half the day to knead and rise, and so batches of bread at my mother's house bake far into the night). And every year, she concocts the most sinfully decadent multi-layered chocolate cake for my birthday. It is made with pounds and pounds of solid chocolate and a vat of sour cream, and is so rich and delicious that the mere THOUGHT of it makes me want to lie down on the floor and roll around for awhile.
And then there's her pastry.
My mother claims that her pastry recipe originates from the back of a Crisco box, but none of us actually believe her.
WE believe that the Food Gods must have whispered it into her ear one night while she was sleeping. Then, they gifted her hands with magical powers to create no-fail perfection whenever the impulse to bake a pie strikes her.
Well, okay, maybe that's taking it a BIT too far.
But suffice it to say this:
A few years ago, my father arrived to stay at our house for a weekend. He was in need of a little company while my mother was away on one of her "Crumbly Tours". Just so you know, a "Crumbly Tour" doesn't actually have anything to do with pastry. Or food of any sort, for that matter. A "Crumbly Tour" is what we used to call the little holidays that my mother would take a couple of times every year, to visit all of the very elderly relatives in our family. She would get on a plane and fly out West, and then dot back across the country, and stop in to spend a couple of days with each aged "Crumbly", until she finally reached home again.
My mother was away, and my father packed up and came to stay with my crazy brood for a weekend while she was gone.
And, as I do for all people who come to stay at my house, I cooked for him. In fact, I made a special point of cooking recipes of my mother's that I happened to know he particularly enjoyed.
After the Saturday evening meal, my father sat contentedly at my table, enjoying his coffee, with a small, satisfied smile on his face.
"That was very nice. Thank-you," he said, as he pushed back his chair and began clearing the table for me.
"But I must ask you..." he continued, as he ran hot water into the sink and added soap. "Have you learned to make your mother's pastry??"
Pastry, according to my father, is my mother's crowning achievement. She is, and always has been, the perfect woman, wife, and mother to his children. But the fact that she is capable of making pastry that renders him almost incapable of coherent speech is clearly the BONUS in his marriage that he never suspected he'd be lucky enough to possess.
This pastry recipe is very, very simple. Deceivingly so, in fact. Because I will write it down, just as she did for me, using HER words... But it will take you time and practise to perfect it. You will learn that this pastry MUST be made with a light, cool hand. I'm not kidding about that: your hands actually MUST be cool. If your kitchen is warm, and your body temperature is too high, then it is important that you don't actually touch the mixture with your hands at all. Go out and purchase a pastry cutter-- one of those little U-shaped wire things that mashes shortening into flour, without allowing your skin to come in contact with the ingredients. In the wintertime, I always prepare pastry on the counter space that is directly under an open kitchen window. It sounds goofy, and more often than not I freeze my butt off, but it is worth it. It makes THAT MUCH of a difference. Temperature and over-handling is what causes the consistency of pastry to become "tough".
The recipe I am going to give you is for a double-crust pie, and in this case, an apple pie. But, if you are making a single-crust pie, like pumpkin, or a quiche, or simply covering a pot-pie, you can divide the amount in half, or make two single-crusts and then freeze one (either roll it out flat on parchment paper, or form it into a pie plate and freeze the whole shebang).
This is a wheel of Aged Cheddar Cheese. And THIS, people, is the only food substance that should accompany a perfect slice of Canadian Apple Pie on a plate. Not ice cream (and I know, I know... I hear all you "a la mode" lovers out there... CHEESE IS BETTER. You'll just have to trust me on this one). It's even better than a big slurp of warm custard drizzled on top. And THAT'S saying something, considering I come from a clan that swills custard like drunken savages.
Apple pie with a great big wedge of sharp cheddar cheese... Now, THAT'S what autumn is all about, people.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Posted by Candygirlflies at 8:10 PM
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Tonight, I was ab-so-lute-ly THRILLED to be in the audience for the first preview performance of the Tony Award-winning CANADIAN musical, "The Drowsy Chaperone", which kicks off its North American Tour here in Toronto. We are incredibly lucky to have the brilliant Bob Martin HIMSELF starring as the "Man In Chair" here in the city where "Drowsy" first had its inception!!
This production is NOTHING short of spectacular, people, and I encourage you to check out the show's website, to see if it will soon be playing in a city near you. Get thee to the theatre. You won't be sorry. I haven't laughed like this in AGES.
Posted by Candygirlflies at 10:50 PM
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Posted by Candygirlflies at 3:45 PM
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
That's right. The Dairy Queen.
Thank-you, Whymommy, for passing along this shwanky new "Nice Matters" award! This gift means so very much to me, because it came from YOU.
If you are new here and haven't already had the privilege of "meeting" her, Whymommy is a fellow-blogger, wife and mother of two little boys. She is also fighting a courageous battle against Inflammatory Breast Cancer. She has taken up the fight on many fronts: not only is she going through aggressive chemotherapy, which will be followed by surgery, she is educating the rest of us through her words on so many, many levels.
She has been writing detailed accounts of her symptoms and treatment, in order that we all might be better informed about breast cancer. Her goal is to share, and to inform, in the hope that ultimately, no other woman or family will ever have to go through what she and her family are enduring right now.
On top of all of this, she writes beautifully and poignantly about her thoughts and feelings. Her words resonate in my head, and regularly make me pause and think. She makes me even more grateful for all the blessings that I enjoy. She makes me want to somehow "do better"; live a more aware existence, and take joy in what is present and happening around me, rather than dwelling on the past, or worrying about the future.
Whymommy has been a wonderful friend and teacher to me over the past few months, and I know for a fact that she has touched the lives of many, many more people through her blog, and in person. She is such an inspiration to all of us.
I can think of no better way to say "thank-you" to Whymommy than to once again post the incredible piece she wrote on her own blog, several months ago. And I ask that each and every one of you, dear readers, copy it and post it on your blogs, too. E-mail it to everyone you know. Because sharing information is such a tremendously important part of beating this terrible, life-threatening disease.
We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?
I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.
Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.
Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.
There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.
Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.
You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.
Together, we can all help Whymommy Kick Cancer's Ass!!
Thursday, September 13, 2007
She was a formidable, if very tiny woman, and lived an extraordinary, long life. She was born on our family farm, and died on the farm she acquired by marriage, which was literally "just down the road" from her birthplace. In an age when farm girls weren't expected to grow up and accomplish more than making a suitable marriage and raising a family, my Auntie set off right after completing grade-school to train as a registered nurse. In those days, nursing was taught in hospitals, and she was accepted to train at one of the best teaching hospitals in the country. It was there that she met a woman who became her best friend, and who also turned out to be my maternal grandmother. We will all be forever grateful to Auntie, as she "chose" my grandmother from their graduating class (Grandma having won the Gold Medal for excellence in her field), and together they set up the area's first tiny little "cottage-hospital" in Auntie's home-town, along with a female-physician (another great rarity of the time). They made an incredible team.
On the day that my grandmother arrived to begin her new nursing job, Auntie sent her younger brother to meet the woman who would eventually become his wife, at the local train station. When the striking young Scottish girl stepped off the train, my grandfather suffered an attack of acute shyness, and apparently hid behind the nearest lamp post... They eventually found one another, however, in more ways than one, and famously (in our family lore, anyway) eloped on April Fool's Day.
My grandparents raised a rollicking brood of four children. It turned out that my little Auntie, however, was not able to have a family. Instead of feeling downhearted and bitter about the cards life had dealt her and her husband, Auntie instead chose to "adopt" her nieces and nephew as her "nearly-own-children". She hosted them all for long visits at her farm, and loved and cared for them all just as much as she would have, had they been borne of her. She had THAT big of a heart.
I think that was part of what made her such an extraordinary nurse, as well. She knew instinctively what would make people feel better... and I'm talking about remedies that went far beyond the medicinal. She knew how important it was to care for the WHOLE person. For example, she would gently wash and brush peoples' hair, or shape and buff their fingernails till they shone. She knew just how to talk to people and befriend them, and could make them forget that she was "nursing" them. More than once, when she was quite elderly and she and I were sitting next to one another having a chat, I would suddenly discover that my wrist was in her hand, and she was sub-consciously taking my pulse. Caring for others was so completely ingrained in her... Even during her final years, when she was hospitalized following some surgery, the young nurses on duty would remark in amazement that Auntie would "make her rounds" of the patients on her floor in the evenings (most of them were people she knew from the community). She would wish each one a good-night, and make sure they all had enough warm blankets.
She was a warm, loving person. I will never forget her.
Today, Child Number Three and I have been baking. It came to me last night that if we baked a special treat TOGETHER today, we could turn it into a gift for the teachers at the nursery school, for when she returns tomorrow. Hopefully, this scheme will help Wee Three feel happy about going back, and proud to be giving a gift she made "herself". As an occasional helper at the school, I know just how hard those wonderful teachers work every day to create a stimulating and nurturing environment for all their little pupils... I'm certain that some of these oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies will give them the nourishment, not to mention the energy-boost they need to get through the last day of the week!!
This is a recipe from my Great Auntie's collection. She taught it to my mother, who taught it to me. They are so delicious, you can just FEEL her love and comfort when you eat them!!
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 c of butter or margarine (**I use Becel's olive oil margarine. It's healthy, and bakes beautifully)
1 c of brown sugar
2 c of oatmeal (**be sure to use "quick oats", and not "instant")
1 c of flour
a pinch of salt
a slurp of vanilla
1 tsp of baking soda, dissolved in 1 tbsp of hot water
As many chocolate chips as you like
Cream together all the ingredients, mixing well. Spoon up the batter 1 tablespoon at a time, and roll into little balls. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
** Now, here is the key to making them crunchy!**
Dip a fork into a little, shallow dish of milk, to coat the tines. then press each cookie dough ball down a little bit. Re-dip the fork in the milk before you press down each cookie dough ball.
Bake for about 7-9 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Watch them carefully, because they burn easily!
Cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
YUMMY with a big, BIG glass of milk...
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
In 9/11 remembrance, a turning to good deeds
NEW YORK - On Sept. 11, Jacob Sundberg of San Antonio has pledged to make eye contact and smile at everyone he meets. Kaitlin Ulrich will bring goody baskets to the police and fire departments in and around Philadelphia. And 100 volunteers from New York – 9/11 firefighters and family members among them – are going to Groesbeck, Texas, to rebuild a house destroyed by a tornado last December.
The heroic acts of all those killed trying to save others that September morning has spawned a growing grass-roots movement. The goal is to ensure that future generations remember not just the horror of the attacks, but also the extraordinary outpouring of humanity during the days, weeks, and months that followed.
"It was the worst possible day imaginable, and in some ways, a remarkable day, too, in the way in which people responded," says David Paine, cofounder of myGoodDeed.org. "We need to rekindle the way we came together in the spirit of 9/11: It would be almost as much a tragedy to lose that lesson."
Sept. 11 has inspired dozens of philanthropic efforts – from groups dedicated to building memorials to foundations designed to improve education in the Middle East. But myGoodDeed has a more universal goal: to turn 9/11 into a day dedicated to doing good – from small, simple things like Lisa Scheive's pledge to help stranded turtles cross the road in Pompano Beach, Fla., to lifesaving efforts, such as John Feal's decision in New York to donate one of his kidneys to help a seriously ill 9/11 worker.
The idea has been endorsed by members of Congress, and at myGoodDeed's urging, President Bush for the first time this year included a call for volunteering in his annual 9/11 proclamation. After major disasters, Americans have historically tapped a deep reserve of compassion and reached out to others. But in the months and years that follow, those compassionate and civic urges tend to recede. Studies at Harvard's Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement in America found that in as few as five months after 9/11, most Americans had gone back to their daily lives and were not more engaged as they said they'd hoped to be. Part of the goal of turning 9/11 into a national day of service is to remind Americans of the inherent joy of giving and to hopefully spur volunteering and charitable acts throughout the year.
"I don't know of any research that's been done on one day of service, but studies have shown that people who do volunteering in high school are more likely to volunteer throughout their lives," says Thomas Sander, executive director of the Saguaro Seminar.
The idea of turning 9/11 into a day of service, charity, and good deeds came from the family and friends of one man: Glenn Winuk, a volunteer fireman and lawyer who worked a block and a half from the World Trade Center. After he helped evacuate his Broadway law offices, he grabbed a medic's bag and ran toward the smoke pouring from the South Tower. That's where his remains were found after the towers fell. Mr. Paine and Glenn's brother Jay had been friends for years. They decided that turning 9/11 into a day of service was best way to memorialize Glenn. "It completely reflects the way my brother lived his life, and it also specifically reflects how he died," says Mr. Winuk, myGoodDeed.org cofounder. "He laid his life on the line for other people that day."
In 2002, Paine and Winuk sent e-mails to friends and family and suggested they do a good deed, such as donate a day's pay on 9/11. Then the idea evolved, and they founded myGoodDeed.org. In 2004, 100,000 visited their website and pledged to do a good deed on 9/11. This year, those pledging number more than 250,000.
"A lot of people don't know what to do on 9/11," says Paine. "This hits people in their heart and their soul. It connects with something that's fundamental."
Monday, September 10, 2007
"To laugh often and love much;
Posted by Candygirlflies at 5:54 PM