Jumping Cancer Hurdles: Brain Cancer Diaries Interview

Jumping Cancer Hurdles: Brain Cancer Diaries Interview

Hello, everyone! In lieu of my typical written post today, I’d like to share a video with you. A couple of weeks ago, Rudy Fischmann of Brain Cancer Diaries and I chatted about what it’s like to live with a brain stem tumor for his vlog series.

We talked a little about my road to diagnosis, the hassles of insurance, and also about the things that keep us going and help us get over the hurdles that brain cancer has put in our way.

Take a few minutes to browse the other episodes on the Brain Cancer Diaries YouTube channel — there’s a ton of great stuff there. Rudy interviews other cancer patients (not just brain cancer patients) and gives you an inside look. If you live with cancer too, I promise you’ll find some comfort in the shared experiences of Rudy and his guests. And if you don’t live with cancer, you’ll gain an appreciation for all the ways the Big C changes a person’s life — for good and bad. Perhaps you’ll even be better equipped to support your friends and family staring down their diagnoses.

Anyway, I am in awe of the fantastic, creative job Rudy does editing his videos, and this one is no exception. The amount of time and energy that must go into the content he creates for the world! Support him and his channel by liking, following, and subscribing to Brain Cancer diaries on YouTube and Instagram. It’ll make you a better person.

Creature Comforts for Quarantine

Creature Comforts for Quarantine

First of all, how are you? How are things going for you out there? I’m honestly starting to settle into the acceptance phase of this whole thing and have identified some creature comforts.

Of course I don’t prefer quarantine life, but it hasn’t felt like an outright assault on my mental health the last for 48 hours or so. So, you know, I’ll freaking take it!

What has helped me most this past week is spending less time on Twitter. Reactions to Trump’s daily briefings combined with reactions to his toilet tweets, were really wearing me down. Don’t get me wrong, all the outrage is entirely justified. I just desperately needed to limit my exposure to them.

It’s like limiting my sun exposure. Sure, I need my body to make vitamin D, but that doesn’t mean I should be exposing myself to direct sun for hours a day. Right?

Right. So here’s a photo essay on some of the stuff that’s been making me feel almost human the last week or so:

Zentangle Videos

I’m still uploading new videos on my channel. Most recently working with supplies from Project Pack No. 8. I really enjoyed drawing the black Zendala tile with the brightly colored Gelly Roll pens. It’s so satisfying to me to see the ink roll over the page that I’ve watched my own video at least a half dozen times. Don’t judge me!

Coloring Page for Patrons

I’m really proud of this! You might recall that at the beginning of the year, I listed making a coloring page as one of my goals for 2020. Well, I did it! I scanned a full-page Zentangle doodle from my notebook, scanned it, and used it traced the pattern using Krita so I could remove the dot grid and clean up the lines for coloring. It’s now a download for my Patrons. I also posted short videos of the process to my Facebook and Instagram. Go me!

More Cooking and Baking

Homemade FroYo

I promised in an earlier post that I’d tell you about the Dreamsicle flavored froyo recipe. It’s so simple. Three cups of plain homemade yogurt, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons of orange juice, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Then you just churn it in your ice cream maker (I used my handy KitchenAid ice cream attachment) until it’s the consistency of soft serve. So. Much. Yum!

Banana Bread

The banana bread is from a cookbook my mom sold as a fundraiser in high school. The book isn’t dated, but she guesstimates it is about 54 years old. This is the recipe we always used when I helped my mom bake as a kid. It’s my favorite for that simple reason alone.

Chicken Broccoli Cheese Casserole

And then there’s this chicken casserole, a recipe that came from the church potlucks of my youth. It’s chicken pieces and frozen broccoli cuts covered in a simple cheese sauce, then topped with Stove Top stuffing and baked and until everything it’s all bubbly and warm. Ah, casseroles. They aren’t fancy, but sometimes they are the only thing that will do.

Cutting My Own Hair

Yep. I really did. My mom was supposed to give me a cut, but it got delayed by coronavirus. And let me tell you, I absolutely cannot stand to grow my hair out. Not only is it impossible for me to deal with from a practical standpoint, but it also sets off the already waaaaay oversensitive nerves in my neck and shoulders post-brain surgery. So, while I’d love to have my old hair back, I have accepted that it will never happen. I have made my peace with it and I have embraced the clippers and an edgy undercut as creature comforts.

Jen’s Piquante Chicken Corn Chowder

Jen’s Piquante Chicken Corn Chowder

I promise this isn’t going to turn into a food blog. Not because I don’t like food blogs, but because if I blogged as frequently as I cooked, this site would only be updated a few times a year. I enjoy cooking. I enjoy baking even more. But I don’t have enough energy to cook frequently, let alone blog about it afterward.

Quarantine has changed our food routines for a few reasons, though. But that’s not what I want to blog about right now. What I want to tell you about today is my friend Jen, her wonderful blog, and her Piquante Chicken Corn Chowder recipe. This soup is sooooooo good. I had been meaning to try making it since she first posted the recipe back in January. (So naturally I didn’t get to it until three months later!)

Today was a great day for soup. After a couple of days with warmer-than-spring-like temperatures, a storm rolled into Urbana yesterday evening. When the winds subsided and the stormed pushed eastward, it had taken about forty degrees with it. Today was cold and windy, and my prematurely aged body wasted no time developing all the aches and pains. Nothing sounded better for dinner tonight than a warm bowl of soup.

Visit Relijen.com for the recipe.

There were some things I didn’t have on hand, grocery shopping being what it is these days—creamed corn, a magnum pepper, or a carton of chicken stock. So I left out the creamed corn, swapped the magnum pepper for a can of green chiles I had in the pantry, and melted a bunch of turkey stock cubes, which had been waiting in the freezer for their moment to shine, in place of the chicken stock.

And that’s what I love about soup. Use what you’ve got; you can’t really screw it up. It was delicious, and there is plenty left over so that we’ve got another no-fuss meal or two waiting in the wings.

When Jen and her husband Darren made the long trek from Winnipeg to Key West in February, they made a special stop in Urbana just to see us! We did a little catching up at Bob Evans and then posed outside for this selfie, which I freaking LOVE. Darren says it looks like an album cover for our new indie band: Steak, Eggs & Balls.

LMAO! So it does.

Anyway, that was the last opportunity I had to meet up with anyone that wasn’t a doctor or a mammogram tech before the Qua-rona-tine hit. And I am so grateful we had the opportunity. If you have a chance, check out Jen’s website and give her a subscribe. She is, as they say, good people. And we could all stand to hear from more good people these days.

How To Make Instant Pot Yogurt | Homemade Yogurt Recipe

How To Make Instant Pot Yogurt | Homemade Yogurt Recipe

Yogurt, like a lot of things these days, has been hard for me to find. So since we own an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker with a “yogurt” button and also find ourselves with quite a bit of time on our hands these days, I thought I’d learn how to make Instant Pot yogurt my own dang self.

This is not a food blog, and I did not anticipate a yogurt-making success story on my first try. So please forgive the quality of my picture. What you are looking at is five hot and sour soup containers from our favorite Chinese place filled with homemade yogurt. This amount of yogurt cost me roughly $1.83 to make — $1.52 for the half gallon of store brand milk and about $.31 for the store brand yogurt cup (the last remaining in my fridge from a low-fat vanilla 4-pack.)

I know, right?

Turns out, it was really, really easy to make. Yes, it takes all day, but it’s almost entirely passive. You don’t have to fuss with anything. The Instant Pot does all the work. The recipe below includes modifications I made to this recipe. It was so helpful and explained everything very well. I would have followed it to the letter had I possessed freeze-dried starter, but this is America in the middle of a pandemic. So I said, “Screw, it. Let’s see what happens if I use this.”

Homemade Instant Pot Yogurt


  • Half gallon whole milk
  • 6 oz. low-fat vanilla yogurt


1. Boil the milk in your Instant Pot. Pour the milk into the Instant Pot and close the lid. Press the YOGURT button and adjust until the digital readout says “boil.” The Instant Pot will beep when it’s finished. It takes about half an hour. Remove the lid and repeat these steps, boiling the milk with the lid off for another 5 minutes to reduce.

2. Cool the milk. Turn the Instant Pot off and remove the insert of hot milk. Put the insert in an ice water bath and stir the milk slowly to cool it evenly. (This should also prevent any film from forming on the milk’s surface, but if one forms simply remove it.) Using a thermometer to measure, cool the yogurt until it reaches 116°F.

3. Temper the store-bought yogurt, which serves as your starter. Put the store-bought yogurt in bowl and add about 1/2 cup of the warm milk. Whisk until smooth, then add the starter mixture to the rest of the warm milk and whisk until combined.

4. Incubate the yogurt. Put the insert back in the Instant Pot, secure the lid, and press YOGURT. Set the time for 8:00 (8 hours). Walk away.

5. Check your yogurt. Your yogurt is set when jiggles. (The original instructions said incubation could take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours. But 8 hours was right on the button for me.) A thin, clear liquid layer of whey will be visible on top.

6. Cool your yogurt to room temperature without stirring. Remove the insert and place a tea towel over the top to cool.

7. Chill yogurt overnight. Remove the tea towel and cover the insert with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 6 hours.

8. Store your yogurt. Whisk the chilled yogurt just until smooth to remove any lumps. Store in the refrigerator in airtight containers.

My Personal Notes

I think technically I was only supposed to use a couple of tablespoons of the starter yogurt. I put in all 6 ounces. Because I do what I want.

Plain, unflavored yogurt is also recommended, especially if you’re planning to use your homemade yogurt in other applications like making pizza dough or tzatziki. But I’m not sure if I can taste any vanilla in my final result. Sometimes I think I taste a hint, and other times I think my brain just thinks it detects a hint because it saw me putting vanilla yogurt in the pot.

This is tangy stuff. You’ll notice there’s no sugar in the ingredient list. If you’re trying to feed it to kids, they might find it too tart as is. You can blend in honey or jam when you serve it though.

I already used my homemade yogurt to make a Dreamsicle flavored orange-vanilla frozen yogurt with my Kitchen-Aid ice cream attachment. And MY GOD. It is so good. I’ll share that recipe soon-ish.

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