Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, art, travel, make-up, cooking and the occasional rant!


My life in art

Well that title sounds a bit pretentious, but in this post I am sharing art I created throughout my life so that is what it is.

I spent part of today photographing most of the stuff I’ve been carrying in my big zippered art portfolio.  A lot of the early work my mom had saved initially, then it all got put together when I acquired the case.

Lots of school work, stuff I did at home, things I’d doodled to kill time but really liked, etc.

I’m on a binge to cull all non-essential materials and want to make sure I have a visual back-up of things I treasure.  It is a challenge for someone with the “collecting gene” to get rid of things, but I am doing well at off-loading things that don’t have a lot of emotional attachment. Like my pin-back button collection and my pin collection – sold those.  Still have more “collections” to sell or otherwise disburse but I’ll get to it all in time.

Going through things today it was easy to see my progression/improvement as I learned and practised.

One of the earliest that I still have is this drawing I did of Marmaduke when I was around 5 or 6 years old. Mom kept this one in her cedar chest for years.


I have always been able to copy what I’m looking at.

This is another very old one.  I was around 8 or 9.  Granny was a very talented artist and always gave me art supplies for birthdays and Christmas.  This was done with pastels – and no technique!


This painting was  done in Grade 5 so I was 10 years old.  I’m positive I copied it.  A lot of my school art is damaged from being mounted by the teachers – some torn on the edges like this one, or, stained by tape.


I did this one in Grade 6 or 7 – The Marlboro Man aka Tom Selleck BEFORE Magnum P.I.  I am upset about the tape damage – I was/am really proud of this one.  I had the BIGGEST crush on him!


The shoes were done in Grade 8.  This has a story… I was attending a small all-girl catholic junior high (BTW, not a catholic) and the art teacher was a nun with a BA in fine arts. There was going to be an art show of student art for parent’s day or something so we all had to draw our shoes – she then took our drawings to put up on display.  Well…MY drawing was NOT on display.  I, and my mom, asked where it was.  Her comment was that I hadn’t turned it in.  I did, and had witnesses to that – the whole damn class!  So she had to back pedal, and oh, surprize, she “found” my drawing but too late for the art show.  My mom said she was jealous as she couldn’t draw herself.  Nice nun, eh?  Lies and does a dirty to a 13 year old student of hers?

BTW… those were the most comfortable shoes!


I wasn’t really into drawing people from life but tried.  I had a hard time with eyes.  This is a portrait of my sister from 1977.  It was much easier working from photos.


This is of a fellow recruit I did while in the Army in 1978/79.  I was getting better at faces.


This next one is Mom working on getting Special to halter lead.  It was summer.  LOL. Mom commented about me including the stomach rolls.  BTW… working with horses in bikinis and barefoot is NOT recommended.


This next one is the logo I designed for the Pacific Pinto Horse Association in 1981.


This cat skeleton isn’t dated – but I think it was in a drawing class.


Quick sketch of my brother Neil in 1985.  It actually does look like him.  I wish I had been more consistent about dating my work.


And another from 1985 of one of our horses, Major.  We left the farm in 1984 and I had a lot more time to draw and do other things so I have a fair amount of stuff dated 1985 in my portfolio.


With that extra time I did some needlework too.


And moving along to 1987.  I was into drawing horses – almost all of my 10th year I drew nothing but horses.  Then we actually got horses!  Then I drew our horses. The Arab below is not one of ours.


During the 1990s I took many classes in various mediums at the Surrey Arts Centre.  The following are some of the results:





This pastel of Little Dog sleeping beside me I did somewhere between 1990-94.


In 2001 I painted this one of us all watching the Leonides Meteor shower.

Leonides Meteor Shower

I’m only just getting back into putting pen/brush/pencil to paper again.  I’ve been busy with my other art, make-up, for a lot of years and it satisfied the urge to create, but now that I have more time on my hands I’m itching to try out other mediums and try new things.

Over the last little bit I started doodling with these results which I find quite satisfying.  I can’t stand “adult” colouring books so just start on a blank page and keep going till I run out of room.

This one was gel and ballpoint pens.  Took me a month to finish.


This one was done in three days because I found my felt pens… much faster filling in the shapes!


I’ve signed up for a watercolour class starting this Wednesday which I am really excited about.  That is one of the mediums I haven’t tried yet.  I love the look and admire what people can do with it so am really looking forward to learning about the techniques.

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Cheesecake, version 2.0

Finally got around to creating a baked cheesecake today.  After my no-bake version (read about that one here) I wanted to try a baked one and see if I could amp up the “dessert” feel to it.

I have to say this turned out pretty damn good!

I just made this up as I went along – cheesecake is a pretty simple recipe really, so I just started throwing things together.

So, here is my Baked No-Sugar Cheesecake recipe.

Pre-heat oven to 350F


1 (+/-) cup ground almonds – I just dumped what was left in a small package into the dish

1/4 cup butter

2 squares of finely grated 70% cocoa baking chocolate (the chocolate keeps the base together)


1 – 8 oz package of cream cheese

1 pint of ricotta cheese

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

Finely grated zest of lemon (about a half to one teaspoon – or whatever you get off the one lemon!)

Juice of one lemon

1/4 cup of no-sugar dried cranberries (the type I have were sweetened with apple juice) chopped finely

In a glass or ceramic dish (I used a large Pyrex pie plate) add the ground almonds and butter – microwave for 30 seconds (to melt the butter), then remove and mix until completely blended.  Mix the finely grated baking chocolate into the ground nuts/butter until evenly distributed.  Press firmly down – I put a piece of parchment paper over it and flattened with my hand.  Set aside.

In a 2-quart bowl beat the cream cheese until loose, add in the ricotta and continue beating on medium until well blended and smooth.  Increase speed to high for a minute, add eggs, one at a time and beat well before adding the next.  Add vanilla, lemon zest and juice.  Beat on high until well blended.  Add the cranberries and beat just enough to incorporate evenly.

Pour/dump the filling onto the base and level off in the dish.  Place the dish in the oven for 35-45 minutes.  Middle should be set (meaning not jiggling) when it is done.

Let it cool completely to room temperature, then place in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.  Note: it will fall a little when it cools.


The chocolate in the base keeps it holding together – it isn’t crunchy but does add a textural element.  I was a little worried about the nuts burning if I tried pre-baking it, but possibly it might help to crisp it up a little.  I will try that next time.

My oven likes to run hot – when I took it out it read 389F so, I need to watch that.  It turned a nice golden brown, which is fine, but not strictly required to be properly done.

This really turned out well.  The lemon makes it fruity and tangy, the cranberries gave it just enough “sweetness” to be dessert-y and it smelled fantastic baking!  There is a very subtle hint of Creme Brule on the palette (fancy eh?) which really hits the spot with me.

I had the first piece plain.  I’m going to have tomorrow’s piece with strawberries (just a tablespoon!)  That was too big a portion actually… but it smelled so good!  I ended up putting part of it back as I couldn’t finish.






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Der spring haz sprung

We’ve had an exceptionally warm, and early, Spring this year.

Usually I can’t get near my apple tree to spray it before it buds because of the snow, but this year the snow was all gone before it leafed up.

I had to mow the front yard in early April which is unheard of.  Usually I don’t mow until near the end of May, which is when the last of the snow has melted.  I’ve now mowed the front lawn four times and the back twice.  The back is three times the size of the front and no one sees it… so I only do it once to every two or three times I do the front.

We haven’t had a lot of rain (or snow for that matter) so far either.  My lawn is the first to green up, but also the first to brown up… I don’t water it so it fends for itself.  Makes for less mowing when it is dry.

I’ve been busy tidying up the yard, staining the deck, doing some heavy work with paving stones, etc.  I had bought the stain last summer but just as I bought it the weather turned cold and damp so I wasn’t able to get the deck done.  A couple weeks ago we had a heat wave of near 30C for a week so I got it done!  Took me just over 8 hours over two days.  I just have a couple small things to finish – the garden benches and part that needs a ladder.

Here is the deck, after the staining – I really like the colour which is a match to the soffits and eavestroughs.

Another project was fixing up the area between the garage, shed and deck.  There were large paving slabs there, but an area had been left open with pea gravel which just became a weed patch every year which was annoying.  I scored some recycled paving bricks on a local auction site, and moved some others from another part of my yard to fill in.  Much better, and more useful a space now.  Here is before and after:

The stone stamped pavers go around the side of the house to the front.  Ignore the rubble under the deck – that was there when we bought the house and it isn’t in the way.

When I was scraping away the pea gravel I uncovered nails, screws, broken glass and masses of asphalt shingles… which we also found tons of in the back “garden” patch (along with black plastic garbage bags full of grass clippings… ?  If you are going to dump your grass clippings in the corner of your yard… why would you not just dump them out to rot???)  Previous owner(s) obviously were of the “bury it and they won’t know I was too lazy/cheap to dispose of it properly” mindset.


I finished putting out my petunias today… even though conventional wisdom up here is “NOT before the May long weekend!”  I bought them a couple weeks ago and kept them in the garage for a few days and on the deck for the rest of the time so they were well hardened off.  It’s been nice and the next few days are supposed to be very warm, then it is supposed to rain on the long weekend… so I planted them out in the front beds and some in pots on the steps.  And the big basket I bought for the big planter is out too.

The small pots have silver and white petunias, and the bed is mostly magenta (same as in the big planter.)  They are all Wave Petunias which are really lush, it will be really pretty later in the Summer.

My perennials are growing like, er, weeds!  The Lilies have multiplied and are starting to bud.


And my Prairie Mallow and Hollyhocks are doing great as well.


And the Clematis on both sides of the stairs!  You can see how dry my grass is in these photos.


We talked about getting an arbour to go around the door, but stabilizing it given the wind here was a worry.  As you can tell, we don’t use that door.  That is obvious, right?  You wouldn’t believe the number of door-to-door types that go up to it and try to knock… mostly male (make of that what you will.)

I’ve got pots of herbs on the deck so I can get them easily when cooking – chives, parsley, spearmint, oregano, thyme and dill.  I’ve already been using them.

The apple tree bloomed very well this year on every branch, which is a first.  It is a five-in-one so each branch is a different variety – up till now only three branches bloomed.  So I am excited!  In 2011 I got 31 apples off of three branches.  Last year… 2.  This year, lots of blossoms and more importantly, BEES.  So I am hoping to have a crop.  Each variety has a different ripening time so it should be staggered.

So all done with the prep and planting; all that is left is mowing, watering and weeding for the rest of the season.  Well, just tiny bit of staining left on the benches and high bit, but that won’t take too long.


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Almost normal, whatever that may be

I had my four month follow-up with my doctor last week.

On December 22 I was told I was full blown diabetic (Type 2).  My family history is full of diabetics – Type 1 and Type 2 – on both sides.  So… while I had hoped it wouldn’t happen, it did.   I had been told I was pre-diabetic over a dozen years ago and at that time altered my diet and activity level which kept me at an acceptable level.

After a few of years of maintaining I stopped going for quarterly blood tests as they were always the same – in retrospect I should have kept it up as I probably could have stopped the progression.  But… life happens and I slacked off.

I always knew carbs were my nemesis.  But they were always my go-to… bread, potatoes, pasta – the quick and easy meals.  But I didn’t realize HOW bad they were for my health.

While mom was in the hospital a year ago I was living on deep fried foods – I was craving it and too exhausted to cook.  Then after she died, I only had myself to feed which tended to be the “easy” stuff – toasted ciabatta bread with cheese and scrambled eggs.  Or instant mashed potatoes with a deli roast chicken… I ate vegetables but not at every meal.

I went to get my eyes checked mid-December as they had been getting pretty bad (I was the last of the family to get glasses) – and it was the eye scan that discovered the diabetes.  I had bleeders in both eyes.  The eye doctor told me to get to my doctor as it was extremely serious.  So I got an immediate appointment with  my doctor who was not too happy with me.  He gave me the requisition for the tests and I was at the clinic the next morning at 7 a.m. when it opened.

I saw him on December 22 for the results.  My Glucose Fasting was 15.6 and my A1C was 11.5… not good.  He put me on Metformin (lowest dose as I react to a lot of things).  And left it up to me to figure out how I was going to handle it.  Got prescriptions for the drug, the blood meter, lancets and test strips and off to the pharmacy (bonus – my work benefits cover 100%.)

So I completely cut out sugar and sugar substitutes/replacements.  That was a no-brainer as I don’t have a real sweet tooth, but at Christmas… yeah, it was challenging!  But the week after Christmas I was completely sugar free.

The carbs were more challenging to cut back on.  I did a lot, and I mean A LOT of research into diabetic diet plans, glycemic indexes, blood monitoring.

ALL of the diabetic meal plans I checked appeared to have carbs as part of every meal AND snack.  I knew that wouldn’t work for me but I tried to keep some – like a piece of multi-grain toast with my egg at breakfast or a handful of potato chips with veggies and dip.  The potato chips caused a 5 point spike in my blood sugar.

I think I miss potatoes the most.

If I followed a “diabetic” diet my blood sugar would stay out-of-control.

As I covered in my previous posts I did try out replacements for carb based items.  Total yuck and very expensive.  Not worth the effort involved at all.

So I just eat what doesn’t cause my blood sugar to spike, which is still  trial and error.  I discovered I can have a piece of 85% dark chocolate without any effect, but more than a tablespoon of strawberries will cause a small jump.

The biggest side effect is the weight loss – 30 lbs and counting since Christmas.  I’m not “dieting” – I just don’t eat carbs and sugar and that is permanent.  Lots of vegetables, pork (including bacon!), fish, poultry, cheese, nuts, full fat everything, butter, cream, very minimal fruit. No pre-packaged foods and no fast food (I haven’t eaten in a restaurant since before Christmas.)  It is close to the Paleo or Ketogenic Diets but there are things in their plans that I won’t/can’t eat.

So… (drum roll) my four month follow-up test results…

Glucose Fasting = 5.8 (normal is 5.6) – down from 15.6

A1C = 6.6 (normal range is 4.3-6.1) – down from 11.5

My doctor was extremely pleased with me.  The next set of tests are set for six months and I stay on the Metformin, for now.