I didn’t realize

In January of 2000 we moved from Surrey, BC (Vancouver) to Grande Prairie, AB, where we are today.  So I’ve lived here for 16 full years.

It was a bit of a culture shock, let me tell you!  First, the were NO Starbucks or other fancy coffee places – just Timmies (which gives me a stomach ache.)  Shopping choices were somewhat limited compared to the Lower Mainland of BC.  And a big lack of true ethnic restaurants.  Thankfully things have improved since 2000.

Living and working here changed my daily habits – no more picking up a “second breakfast” when I got off the train, no more multiple vanilla lattes during the workday, and no more lunches out everyday.

I was taking my lunch to work so it was therefore a lot healthier.  I wasn’t having lattes at all.  And a complete change of routine including staircases at work or physical job requirements.

When I arrived in Grande Prairie I was a size 28.  As most people of large size are wont to do, I had a wardrobe of things that fit, things that used to fit and things that never fit – but maybe one day they will.

It was a gradual change for the most part.  Things would get big so I’d start wearing the “used to fit.”  Then after a few years I realized I was in the things that “never fit” and had to buy new clothes.  I gave away my whole pre-Grande Prairie wardrobe – except for one pair of jeans and a sweater that I wore to work when we moved here.

This is the sweater laying on a twin bed… I really wore that, and it fit me.


About eight years ago I realized I’d lost my ass somewhere.  All my pants were baggy in the butt and women’s slacks just did not fit me properly.  So I started buying and wearing men’s dress slacks and jeans as they fit nicely.

And clothing of my brother’s that I’d kept after he died, I could wear – Spiderman shirts, sweat pants – and actually do up the buttons!

Then I was taking care of mom after her stroke and wasn’t paying attention to myself as much, and my clothes got baggy again.  Gave away stuff periodically to cull and bought a few new things here and there.

Then last summer during mom’s hospital stay and death I noticed that all my clothes were, again, baggy.  But I didn’t have the inclination to buy new things at that point.

Then in December I discovered I had to change my diet for medical reasons, the result being a pretty quick drop of a considerable amount of weight.  And serious problems keeping my pants up.

So… yesterday I was out shopping and as I hiked up my jeans for the umpteenth time decided to go buy ONE pair of jeans to tide me over until I plateau.  So I went into the store and a salesclerk approached me right away.  Told her I needed a pair of jeans that fit, as I pulled the loose fabric of the pair I was wearing out into wings.

She asked what size… no idea, so we started with a 20.  And she had to make a couple trips for smaller sizes.

Total shock.  Size 16… SIXTEEN.  I think the last time I fit a 16 was 1979, after I’d lost 84 lbs in high school and enlisted in the army.

I dug my old jeans out of my tickle trunk to compare them to my new SIZE SIXTEEN jeans…


Then I got into my old jeans… in ONE LEG!


I’ve started morning workouts too, as well as the change to my diet, so who knows where this will end.




Finally nailed a cookie recipe!

I’ve been trying to find a recipe for cookies without sugar or carbs without much luck.  I tried a few recipes but they were god awful.  Experiments continued…

I tried a peanut butter cookie recipe without flour, butter or sugar… wasn’t horrible but they turned to dust if you just looked like you were going to pick one up.

I bought some coconut flour but made the mistake of assuming it was about an equal replacement for wheat flour.  NOPE!  It is massively absorbent and about a teaspoon of coconut flour replaces a cup of wheat flour.  I had to keep adding things to the dough… like two cups of milk, in order to get it to a consistency that could be worked.  The cookies were hard and dry… then softened up overnight.  It was like eating coconut dust.

Not wanting to waste the last two failed experiments I ground them up in the food processor to use as the “flour” in the next experiment – ground nuts/nut flours are very expensive!

I tried a sugar substitute called SteviaSugar – holy crap the after-taste is vile. I followed directions for amounts and even used less than suggested as I don’t need things super sweet.  I tried a couple of the cookies (chocolate coconuts drops) which weren’t horrible, but then… the after-taste kicked in and wouldn’t go away.  I brushed my teeth to get rid of it… and woke up in the morning with it still in my mouth.

So I continued to search for recipes that didn’t use sugar or sugar substitutes.  Found some but they weren’t carb free.  I don’t HAVE to be carb free, but need to keep it to a minimum.

I found a recipe that had oatmeal, almond flour and brown rice flour.  So decided to sort of follow it… actually, I changed it a lot.  I replaced banana with apple sauce, almond butter with peanut butter, added an egg, increased the oatmeal and removed the 1/4 c of maple syrup and several other unnecessary things…

I’m an experienced baker/cook so recipes are usually just to get an idea of proportions and ingredients and inspiration for different combinations.  But I’m not familiar with a lot of these new ingredients so need to see the combinations and ratios.

So, the results are in and this one was a SUCCESS!


They are Oatmeal Blueberry.  They are a bit … “rounded” as I didn’t flatten them.  I was expecting them to spread due to the butter, but they stayed the way they were dropped. (I’d already had a few when I took the photo.)


They hold together, the blueberries are a nice pop, and they are plenty sweet enough with the apple sauce and blueberries.  I can’t even taste the peanut butter.

Here’s my recipe if you want to try it.

No Sugar Oatmeal Blueberry Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 F (my oven runs hot, so I turned it down to 335 F after I put them in.)

1/3 cup butter. softened

1/2 cup unsweetened smooth peanut butter

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce (one snack sized container)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

(Optional: you can add maple syrup or honey if you want them sweeter – 1 tsp up to 1/4 cup depending on how sweet you want them.)

2 cups oatmeal

1/2 cup ground almonds

1/4 cup brown rice flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup dried blueberries OR craisins, raisins, or whatever you want

Cream the butter and peanut butter together, blend in the apple sauce, egg, vanilla (and syrup if you are using it.)

Combine all the dry ingredients together and add to wet, blend until mixed well.  Add the blueberries and mix until combined.

Drop tablespoons of dough onto parchment lined cookie sheets.  As they won’t spread, you can flatten with a fork or your hand if you want to.  Mine weren’t and baked fine.

Bake for 15-20 minutes – until browned on the bottom and no longer give when touched. If you flatten them, check at 12 minutes as they may bake faster than mine.

Makes 2.5 dozen.

Let cool completely before putting in a sealed container.

I’m really pleased with these – they taste like normal cookies!




Hello… it’s me.

As my first post of 2016 this will be upbeat.  May as well start as I would like it to continue!

For Christmas I bought myself a present.  I ordered an up-cycled sweater coat – custom made for me and it arrived last week. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!  It is warm enough to wear outside – so far I’ve worn it at -17C and it is comfortable.  I can also wear it inside all day at work without overheating!  Here is me wearing it…

DSC02299 (3)

I ordered it from Bramble Hollow Fine Arts – she does all sorts of art and crafts.  She has a couple of coats in her Esty shop and takes custom orders.

My Mr. Spock sculpture is in a show at the Centre for Creative Arts here in Grande Prairie – it is celebrating the Centre’s 20th Anniversary.  The artworks featured are connected to the Centre; I made Mr. Spock in a week long sculpting workshop at the Centre in 2004. Here he is on display…


He’s for sale.

I’ve had to change my eating habits for medical/health reasons which has the side-effect of losing weight.  Not a bad thing.  However… have you noticed the price of vegetables?!  $8 for a cauliflower?   Celery is still reasonable… and I’ve discovered it is good with peanut butter.  Luckily I am currently on a peanut butter “like phase” – most of my life it wasn’t on my list of favourite things, but lately I’ll eat it by the spoon.

I signed up again this year for Summer’s Gold which is a farm that operates a “Community Supported Agriculture” program.  You buy a share in advance which entitles you to weekly deliveries of whatever is ready from the first week of July until the end of September.  This is my fifth year participating.  Nothing like freshly harvested locally grown vegetables!  And considering the prices it works out way less than buying at the store.

I’m on the search for carb free/sugar free recipes for “snack” foods.  Some of them, that are labelled as sugar free are NOT.  Total waste of time searching and reading the ingredients.  If you need something to be sugar free you do NOT want it to replace sugar with honey or maple syrup.  And the descriptions of the cookies… Lies, all lies.

I made a peanut butter cookie recipe night before last… edible but not enjoyable.  I’ve got a couple more to try that include apple sauce as a sweetener.  Going to experiment – I can create my own recipes once I know what will work.   There’s one using puréed pumpkin that sounds like it might be good.  You never know, this may turn into a food blog!

I’ll use the not really good peanut butter cookies as a crust for a cheesecake or quiche.  Add a ton of butter because, well, butter makes it better!  Should work.

I cleared out my pantry and kitchen cupboards of the stuff I can no longer eat – was a lot of food.  In the process of doing that I am embarrassed to say I discovered rather a lot of items were either horribly stale and/or rancid.  Who knew spaghetti could go bad?  And… ahem, best before dates that were years past.  I had an unopened box of papadums that had a best before date of 2000.  I tossed a lot of items.  The rest a friend took off my hands.

My kitchen has never been more organized.  I even sorted out the spices – alphabetically of course.

I’ve also been culling “excess to requirements” items by selling or donating.  Things like stemware, small appliances (who needs three blenders?), gifts that were never used, collectibles, odd bits of china, etc.  Still a lot more to go through but I’m getting there.

We’ve had a very mild winter so far, thanks to El Nino, with regular hoar frosts which are so lovely.  This was out my living room window last week:


My year is booking well for face painting and make-up services.  I have confirmed bookings right through to December already.

So 2016 is going well.





Goodbye and good riddance 2015

On one hand it has been a long and busy year, on the other it whizzed by so fast and was, as the Queen once said, an “annus horribilous” for my family.

I’ll be finishing off 2015 face painting at the New Year’s Eve celebration at Muskoseepi Park tomorrow night with my crew of six.  It is a nice way to cap off a very good business year – best yet.  Lots of face painting, make-up, theatre, a couple of different film shoots, weddings and Halloween, of course.

I’ve been at my new part-time day-job for five months now and am really enjoying it.  Great group of co-workers, nice place, excellent company with fantastic pay and benefits.  I am very grateful to be there.

Then there are the horrible parts – in April my uncle died (father’s only sibling); in June my mom died; in October my father died (they divorced in 1985.)  My two sisters and I are now orphans (our baby brother died in 2006.)

The week before Christmas I got hit with serious health/medical diagnoses (yes, more than one) – none require hospital or surgery but do involve medication and life changes.

Then there was the basement flood in February when the water line into the house blew.  And then repairs to the foundation in July and subsequent mandatory renovation to the basement to repair the aftermath.

I love my house but… The only thing that is still original to when we bought it just over 10 years ago are the studs and the siding.  Seriously.

So bring on 2016.  I’m more than ready.



Candy is packaged!

This weekend I packaged up the candy ready to start gifting.

I have big tins to ship off to the sisters.  Had to really pack those in well with bubble wrap to help keep the contents from shifting too much.  Things get thrown around a lot during the shipping process.  I once received a box of baking that was just a box of fine crumbs; so I try to make sure that I’ve put cushioning in and packed any air pockets with something to absorb the impact shocks.


Now I need to find boxed to ship them in – I find cereal boxes are a great size and easy to cut down to fit tightly.

The rest is all packed up in bags.


I made some dried fruit and nut balls too, but they will be disbursed in a different manner – they can’t be packaged with the candy.


They are pretty tasty – just chopped nuts and dried fruit finely chopped in the food processor.  These contain: peanuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, prunes, dried apple, craisins, dried blueberries, raisins, pineapple, papaya, mango and then rolled in ground almonds.  Easy – equal parts of each: nuts and fruit; mix well, roll into one inch balls.  That’s it.

Due to the prune content… I wouldn’t recommend eating a bunch at once, but they are good!

I’ve got more to do – all the leftover scraps and nuts will be used and some cookies to bake.  Nice thing about cookies is that they freeze well!



I may be famous, maybe

I worked on a film in October for a local film challenge called the Frightening 48.  Teams of film makers signed up, then Friday night at 6 p.m. were given three specific things that HAD to be in the short (under seven minute) film:  a character, a prop and a line of dialogue.  Each team was given a different character but the prop and line were the same.

Then the teams had to write, plan, shoot, edit, and submit the finished film by 6 p.m. on Sunday night – in 48 hours.

The shooting took place starting at 6 a.m. on Saturday … in a graveyard (it was still the middle of the night here as dawn wasn’t until 8 a.m. or so).  Then we moved around town, on the streets, an old isolated farm house, a dive bar… etc.

Then the post-production crew pulled an all-nighter and through Sunday to get it done to drop off.

After the challenge, more scenes were shot to expand the film to a longer version which is being released for television.

It stars Gerald Auger (AMC’s Hell on Wheels) and lots of local talent.  Check the Facebook page of Bohemian Blood.

So, my point… the poster for the movie was just released… and they credited me ON THE POSTER!!

Bohemian Blood movie poster


Smells great in here

If you typically are on my gift list … SPOILER ALERT!

I’ve been busy the whole weekend and the last two evenings and THESE are the results.

“Snicker” Caramels (soft caramel, peanuts and chocolate) new this year.  I was going to make the usual “turtles” but… after burning the first batch of pecans, running out to buy more, and burning them… I gave up.


Peanut Brittle.


Dark Chocolate Cashew Bark


Milk Chocolate Almond Bark


White Chocolate Candy Cane Bark



White Chocolate Cashew Bark



Dark Chocolate Almond Bark


Mixed Nut Brittle


Pecan Bark (aka Praline)


English Toffee (toffee, chocolate and chopped almonds)


Due to the amount of left over nuts, and some other items, I am going to make a few more things – Dried Fruit & Nut Balls, some dipped Pretzel Sticks and depending on how much is left after those are done maybe something else. I was looking for a Spiced Nut recipe but couldn’t find one I think will work as the nuts are already roasted and I really don’t want to burn any more!  The last thing I make every year are the Chocolate Nut Clusters – which is ALL the crumbs from ALL the batches and any left over nuts dumped together with milk chocolate. They are my sister’s favourite.

The hardest thing about making all this is that every single batch has to be taste tested…. you know, for quality control.

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Shannon Fennell

Shannon Fennell

International Award Winnning Make-Up Artist, Face & Body Painter

I am a professional make-up artist with credits in film, television, theatre and editorial. I offer a multitude of make-up related services and retail instructional products for face and body painters.

Some of my awards include 2005 International Face Painter of the Year, 2006 Winner of Fantasy Worldwide Face Painting Contest in Putte, Belgium, Second Place at the 2007 US Body Painting Festival, as well as over 80 other awards and prizes.

I love creative projects and am available for everything from wedding make-up to custom built prosthetic appliances, large scale international sporting events to individual appointments, birthday parties to trade shows.

I also do costume design and prop building for theatre and cosplay.


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