Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, cooking, make-up, travel, the joy of home ownership and the occasional rant!

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And Spamalot is a wrap!

Last night was closing night for Spamalot, a GPLT/GPRC co-production.16730162_10210365810035857_2774274503412802183_n

I was the Make-Up/Hair Designer (it says so on the poster!) and lead, and also built the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch and the Holy Grail, as well as making costume pieces and accessorizing the Lady of the Lake.  I also provide other pieces of costume to some of the Knights (when one once wore a Knight’s costume in horse shows one has stuff in the tickle trunk!)

The show has three dress rehearsals and ten performances and I was there for over five hours for each one of them.  There were eight make-up/hair crew which rotated with usually five or six at each performance.

I made pox for the Not Dead Yet number out of latex – we used toupee tape for the cast to stick them on.  It worked VERY well!  For those with latex allergies we had red face paint and a sea sponge.

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These were actually very effective – and looked quite gross from the audience!

I have hundreds left over… all ready for Halloween – smallpox anyone?

I was asked to build props on very short notice – less than a week before dress rehearsal. I used cloth mache for both the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch and the Holy Grail.  The hand grenade was thrown each time and had to stay together, so I used a wooden dowel right through the structure and wired plastic mesh and foam… it held up fantastically.  I can’t find a dent on it.

The Grail was a rush job as I only had four days to make it which really wasn’t enough time to make it pretty, but it did the job.

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I made headpieces for the Lady of the Lake – she had no accessories or jewellery with the costumes that she was given so I got creative.  I built crowns using pipe cleaners, ribbon, wire, beads, shells, etc.  She had seven costumes and I had different accessories for each (one of the costumes I provided – the first greek goddess one, and one was her own old grad dress – the royal blue with spaghetti straps.)  I raided my jewellery stash and outfitted her with my personal items, and created a bustle for one dress and arm drapes for another.

Here are some close-ups to show detail on the five crowns I made for the show:

Two headpieces were things I had on-hand – the beaded fringed cap I had bought in Paris years ago and the other was a simple beaded headband that matched the robe.

Here are King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake.

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The blushing brides – Lady of the Lake and Prince Herbert.

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And these are all taken during the performances:

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We all received a framed image with our role in the production on it which is pretty nice. The little Polaroid is when “I” found the grail and won the “Arthur” award as Best Peasant in Grande Prairie… long story… LOL.  In the group photo I am below the ‘n’ in Finland in the pink sweater.

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It was a fun show and very funny!  We spent a lot of time in the wings watching what we could as it was so good!  Most of the crew watched it from the front at least once (some more than once.)  The next big musical will be in 2019 – we do the “big ones” every two years.  We all need to rest up between them!

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Pancakes!

While I would have to say I miss potatoes the most, I get the occasional craving for pancakes.  We used to have them every Sunday for breakfast and sometimes for dinner.

I tried three or four different LCHF/Paleo/Keto recipes for pancakes and was NOT happy with any of them.  They had to be teensy cause they wouldn’t flip, fell apart, were greasy because of the amount of fat that had to be in the pan to stop them from sticking, the mouth texture was unpleasant, etc.  I ended up throwing all those attempts out.

A couple of weeks back I was thinking about pancakes, again, and had an epiphany.  What if I BAKED them?  They should dry out and not need flipping… and  I could come up with my own recipe.

So I sat and wrote out a recipe from scratch, using what I have learned from trial and error, and personal preference.

The first time I didn’t photograph it as it was a test run but they were great!  But just a tad on the dry side.  This morning I made them again – adding an additional ingredient and a little more of another and they are perfect!  Light, fluffy, the texture of “normal” pancakes.  I would put money on people not being able to tell they aren’t “normal” pancakes actually.

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Here’s my recipe.

LCHF/Gluten Free Baked Pancakes

Preheat oven to 400F

2 ounces of butter

4 ounces of cream cheese

4 large eggs

1 cup almond flour

2 tablespoons of coconut flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

2 tablespoons of water

  1. Mix dry ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. In another bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating at medium speed until well incorporated.
  4. While the mixer is running add the dry ingredients a bit at a time until all combined.
  5. Add the water and beat on high speed for about a minute.  If the mix appears to be too stiff add a bit more water – it should look like normal pancake batter at this stage.
  6. Let the batter rest for about five minutes – at this point it will thicken up a bit which is fine.
  7. While the batter is resting, cover a large baking sheet with baking parchment.
  8. Scoop out batter with a spoon/cup, etc. onto the cookie sheet and spread out to your desired size.  I made mine (this time) about 6 inches across like regular pancakes!
  9. Place on the centre rack in a pre-heated 400F oven for 10 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and serve with your desired toppings.

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This recipe made five pancakes. They did spread a bit when baked and ran into each other, so the edges had to be cut, but that is easily fixed next time!  And… first time I used parchment, this time I didn’t… USE THE PARCHMENT PAPER!  Or silicone pad, etc.

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I drench my pancakes in butter.

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I like mine with peanut butter or cheese – I couldn’t finish though.  I did eat the left over stack later for lunch, and the remaining two are in the fridge for tomorrow.

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These keep in the fridge and you can freeze and reheat in the toaster for a quick breakfast too.  Or even use for a sandwich or pizza crust, etc.

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I’ve discovered Copic Markers

Over the last seven or so months I have rediscovered the fun and relaxation of just making art. Just for enjoyment, not for a specific project.  I hadn’t realized how much I’ve missed it.

I took a watercolour class last spring.  I always loved watercolour painting but it was one medium I’d never really tried.  I LOVE IT!  It is a fast painting method and easy set-up and clean-up.

I started doing Name Art in the summer and working with the felt pens and markers got me looking into what other tools were available. I discovered Copic Markers – wow. Expensive, but they are sure fun to work with.  The blending ability is amazing.  I really like the Multiliner marker – I’ve been sketching with it almost everyday and now need to go buy some ink refills.  Which is one of the features of the Copic Markers – refills.

I’ve kinda-sorta set myself a One-a-Day Art Challenge – but I am not strictly enforcing it as some days there just isn’t time.  However, using that Copic Multiliner marker helps me whip out some quick sketches.  Much faster than pencil for me as I can’t erase or do over – once the mark is on the paper, that’s it.

Here are some of the sketches I’ve done over the last week or so with the marker. I am posting all my daily art on my Facebook page Shannon Fennell Art – I’d love a Like if you check it out.

I took a kiln fused glass workshop yesterday and am very excited.  I want to take more workshops with glass. I only got two cuts and neither bled.  I made three plates – these are what they look like before firing.  Some of the colours are going to change in the kiln.  I get to see the finished plates on Thursday after they have been fired.

I signed up for a photography class that starts this week – I need to learn about my fancy camera that I’ve had for almost 4 years and only used once.

All in all I am really having a great time exploring different mediums and getting back into creating things just for my own pleasure.

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I love Jars!

Where I live we don’t currently have a glass recycling program so, being a responsible recycler, I try to reuse and re-purpose as many glass containers as I can.

I’ve been ramping it up lately by reorganizing my kitchen and craft areas – the more glass jars I end up with, the more plastic I recycle.

A friend takes the recycled jars and adds handles to the lids making them quite decorative. I have a couple in my guest bath.

And another in my kitchen (I know what will be going in it, I just don’t have any right now.) And that pasta is just a decoration!

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I use jars for small things like buttons and beads.

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And as everyone in the world must, the Danish Butter Cookie tin!  This one is full of zippers.

I use them to hold tools in my studio.

I used a decorative jar to save my graduation corsage in – these types of jars work really well for keepsakes.  I think this one came with candy in it, but you can reuse candle jars too.

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And I love mason jars!  They are perfect for food storage. The ultimate recycled jars – people give them to you full and you have them forever!

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I store my nuts and baking supplies in the mason jars – it is so much neater than a bunch of bags or other containers.  I can see everything clearly in the cupboard.  I also store tea bags in jars – I cut out the name from the box and stick it in the jar.  The jars help keep the tea fresher longer.

I’ve also have some larger jars for things in bigger amounts – my almond and coconut flours, my homemade nut cereal mix, and snacking peanuts.

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I also reuse spice jars of all sizes: glass and the larger plastic ones.  I like to make my own spice mixes so it is handy to have some spare jars on hand.

I have some can shelves and a large spice rack mounted in the stairwell to the basement, this is right off my kitchen and really convenient for me – I just take a step or two down and all my spices are at eye level!

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I just stick labels on the recycled jars.  I buy bulk to refill the commercially labelled jars. And yes, the bottom four shelves are in alphabetical order…

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I’ve discovered a really excellent sauerkraut, Bick’s Bavaria-Fest – and it comes in a nice squat wide-mouthed jar!  And it was on sale with bonus Airmiles… I have stocked up and have a plan for the jars once I’ve emptied them all.

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If you’ve got a glass recycling program available by all means use it, but also remember that glass containers are extremely reusable, and in many more ways than I’ve mentioned above.

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Aw Nuts!

Sometimes I just want a bowl of cereal…

But as I no longer eat grain of any description that means Vanilla Almond Crunch or Mini-Wheats are out of the question.

I saw some recipes for homemade grain free “granola” but there were a lot of ingredients I wasn’t going to bother with like coconut, hemp and chia seeds, flax seeds, coconut oil, etc.

I have nothing against coconut – I am just not on the coconut oil bandwagon.

And I wasn’t going to process it in a food processor either.

But in reading the various recipes I decided I would invent my own mix.  I have to say it is bloody fantastic!  Crunchy, nutty, satisfying and with cream you really think you are eating a bowl of “cereal.”

When my sister was here looking after me after my surgery she ate a bowl of it everyday and asked for the recipe.

The amounts are approximate, basically adjust to suit your tastes – use your favourite nuts and seeds, increase/decrease the spices, use other spices, etc.  If I buy the nuts in bags, I just toss in the whole bag.

This makes quite a big batch of 4 cups and keeps in the cupboard in a sealed container.

Cinnamon Ginger Nut “Cereal”

Preheat oven to 350F.

1 1/2 cups sliced almonds

1 cup chopped macadamia nuts

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

2 tsp melted butter

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

  1. Put all the nuts in a mixing bowl.
  2. Melt the butter and add to the nuts, stirring very well to coat all the nuts.
  3. Add the vanilla to the nuts and stir well, making sure that the nuts are all evenly coated.
  4. Add the cinnamon and ginger and stir really well, making sure that everything looks evenly distributed.
  5. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper and dump the nut mixture onto it. Spread out evenly on the sheet – ideally the nuts should be in a single layer with gaps.
  6. Bake at 350F for 5 minutes – then check and stir the nuts.  Return to oven as necessary to have the nuts starting to turn golden brown – you can really start to smell them toasting at this point.  Keep a close eye on them as it is a very fine line between well toasted and burnt!  It will depend on your oven how long it will take to get them where you want them.  Taste one to check!
  7. Once the nuts are as toasted as you prefer, remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet.
  8. Once the nuts are cool, place in an airtight container to store.
  9. Eat as is, or add cream or milk of your preference.

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One year

It has been a year of huge change for me – for the better.

It was one year ago today, December 22, that I was told I had Type 2 Diabetes.

I was left to figure out what to do by myself – my doctor prescribed Metformin and sent me off to the pharmacy to get that and the rest of the paraphernalia required.

In order to get my blood sugar under control I changed my diet. I immediately cut out sugar (which was not an issue at all for me.)  Then I had to deal with the carbs, ultimately discovering through trial and error that my system could not handle them.  So I made the change to Low Carb High Fat which enabled me to get my blood sugar numbers down.

As a side effect of the diet change I have lost over 70 pounds, so far .

I started going to Curves to improve my fitness level which helps with the diabetes control.

Unfortunately it was discovered my eyes had deteriorated due to Diabetic Retinopathy requiring injections into my eyeballs to clear up the bleeding.  As of this month my left eye has cleared up, requiring no further attention, but my right eye continues to need treatment.

I now have normal blood sugar levels – normal normal, not diabetic normal.

My blood pressure is also normal – I actually was 120/80 at my last doctor’s appointment.

I took a watercolour painting class and spend evenings painting for fun.  Watercolour is so much less effort than other mediums (for set-up and clean-up) and a relaxing activity.

I visited family in Toronto and got to see Niagara Falls…

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…and go indoor skydiving!

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Making inroads on the hypothetical bucket list – although I don’t think skydiving would have been on mine.

I am in a good spot with my health and keeping busy, finding new interests, doing different things and planning for next year’s adventures.  So overall it has been a positive year – even though events were triggered by bad news.

 

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Cookies!

I’ve been missing cookies quite a bit lately – it being the season and all.  And my sister is providing a play-by-play of her baking which makes me miss them even more.

Just something about the crisp crunch with a cup of tea, ya know?

I check out recipes all the time for low carb cookies – they invariably contain sugar substitutes, which I don’t use.

A recipe for “gluten free” cookies showed up the other day – which looked like something that I could alter.

I adjusted things to suit myself and I am so happy!  They turned out really well – like shortbread.  I’m really hoping they stay the texture they are and don’t soften up.  I have to stop eating them for the day though – as I added 70% chocolate chips to them and don’t want to go over on that!

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Pecan Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cookies

1 cup butter (8 oz.)

1/2 cup cream cheese (4 oz.)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla (or any flavour extract you like, almond, etc. – next time I am going to use lemon zest!)

2 cups almond flour (16 oz.)

1/2 cup coconut flour (4 oz)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped pecans (4 oz)

1/2 cup 70% dark chocolate (or higher if you can find them) chips (4 oz)

Cream the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time.  Continue beating to incorporate each before adding the next.

Add in the combined dry ingredients a cup at a time, beating well between additions.

The dough will be pretty sticky.  Lay out some plastic wrap and dump the dough onto it, shape into a roll, wrap and refrigerate for 4-6 hours (overnight is good.)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Cut the roll into slices a little less than 1/2 inch thick – thinner tended to break-up due to the nuts and chocolate chips.  Lay on a parchment lined baking sheet.  They won’t spread so you can fill it up pretty tight!  If any break or crumble just press the dough together to shape it.

Bake for 10-12 minutes – the edges should just be turning brown.

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Let them cool on the sheet, then move to a container, or eat them.  They stay together to hold in your hand but crumble when you bite into them!

Next time I am leaving out the chocolate as I really like the ones that ended up with only nuts in them.  Then I can eat more of them without worrying about spiking my blood sugar levels!

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