Shannon Fennell's Blog

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

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I’m going back to school!

I am very excited to be starting college in January as a full-time student! A “freshman” … which is pretty funny at my age. I am expecting to be taken for 1) faculty or admin, 2) someone’s mother, or 3) someone’s grandmother, when I attend the First Year Orientation on Saturday.

Yesterday I got my timetable – had to wait until 3 p.m. on December 11 in order to sign-up on the internet and get it all confirmed.  The semester starts on January 22 and I have classes on Mondays (2), Tuesdays (1), Wednesdays (2) and Fridays (2).

Bought a parking pass last week which I will pick-up on Saturday. The college is about a half-hour drive from home in moving traffic.  Transit is approximately 1.5 hours each way… even though I get a free transit pass with my tuition, three hours on a bus carrying stuff isn’t my idea of fun in the winter!  My brother-in-law put it this way when I mentioned the cost of a parking pass vs. free transit pass… “Don’t be a moron.”

The program I am taking is called “Foundations in Art & Design” and is a one-year certificate, and I can then transfer directly into the Fine Arts – Advanced program at year two.

I’m starting from the beginning with the Fine Art education – I’m a lifetime artist but did not do any formal (accredited) training after high school. I’ve taken classes and workshops all my life in various media and techniques and never stopped making art in some way. This program covers things I need to know for the modern art world such as preparing a portfolio, digital drawing, audio & video production,  photography, as well as the usual drawing, painting, sculpting, etc.

I am fortunate to be in a position to be able to do this at this time of my life. When I graduated from high school I chose to go the route of a career that guaranteed a paying job – art wasn’t something you took to do that. I couldn’t see spending money on an art degree when it wouldn’t get me a job. I was very pragmatic but still ended up doing work I really enjoyed regardless.

People would tell me, when seeing my work as a kid and teen, you should go into graphic design, etc. But I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it – I had to be in the mood to produce good things. Over the years I’ve learned that practise makes perfect, or at least something I can be happy with, even if I am not completely in the mood.

I am really looking forward to the studio work – Figure Drawing and 3D Art & Design are this semester. The computer/digital work is going to be a bit of a challenge as I am borderline Luddite but I will give it the old college try!

This is a painting I did in September – I took a watercolour class at the Centre for Creative Arts a year or so back, and discovered I really enjoy it. This is “Ketchikan Sunset” and is from a photo my brother-in-law took on their Alaskan cruise.  I played around with figuring out how to make the sky work and am very proud of how it turned out.

Sept 4 17

I hope we will be covering watercolours in the studio work!





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Guess who is going nuclear?

One of the more “interesting” things about moving to Ontario is the aspect of nuclear power.

Got this box in the mail today – addressed to the occupants at this address.


It was handed to me to open (all the mail with no specific name on it is mine apparently.)  Inside was this:


A pen (you might need one during the meltdown!), a fridge magnet and a booklet.  Does anyone else remember that comedy shortfilm by the National Film Board (at least I think it was) about a nuclear attack?  I remember lines about “extinguishing all smoking materials and get under the refrigerator” and “putting your head between your knees and kissing your ass goodbye”?

This was the inside cover of the box:


Not really sure how convenient this box would be… where would you stash it?  That drawer in the kitchen with all the other stuff? On top of the fridge that no one can see?  In the pile of “important papers” on the end of the counter that is now buried under the kids’ homework?

Just read that the pen is a flashlight too… and just about burned out my eyeballs!  That is bright!


Well… keep calm is a pretty standard step in an emergency.  Go inside, well… sure, wood frame homes will definitely keep out the radioactivity.  Radio, yep.  Maybe I could get in the car to listen to the radio?  That seems more pro-active – then I’ll be ready to evacuate.  And with my electric hybrid I won’t need to stop for gas!  Need to order those pills though.


Wonder if my thyroid medication would interact with the potassium iodide? Although, if they tell us to take the pills my low thyroid is probably not something I’d need to continue to worry about.


Hmm… 45 years without a serious accident at the Pickering plant which we are right next to.  I don’t know about you but… at 45 my knees were shot.

The red dot that I put on this next page is where we live… That’s about as close as you can get!


And no matter which way the wind blows… well, we are in the middle!

In Northern Alberta I just worried about the local mill catching fire (again) or a train derailment or a plane crash or snowmaggedon.  In town I was not close enough to oil production to worry about an explosion or gas leak.

Oh well… guess there are risks everywhere.  I may need to make myself an aluminum suit to go with my tin foil hat though.

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How the heck is this allowed?

I am used to buying milk and cream that is, well, milk and cream.  Since I switched to LCHP/HF I only use whipping cream.  In Alberta the cream just contained “cream” and was either 33 or 35% milk fat.

When I arrived in Ontario I started having stomach issues.  It didn’t occur to me that it was the CREAM causing them.

I stopped eating pre-shredded/grated cheese because cellulose was added to it as anti-clumping agent. I don’t digest cellulose very well – humans aren’t meant to eat wood.

So imagine my surprize when I read the label on the whipping cream my sister had bought…

The packaging says “real whipping cream 35% m.f.” – so wouldn’t you assume this would simply be, oh say… CREAM??

Whipping Cream

And… the ingredients:
Cream, milk skim milk powder, carrageenan, mono and diglycerides, cellulose gum, polysorbate 80, sodium citrate.

WTF Neilson???  And it isn’t just this brand!  We started reading labels on all the milk and cream and pretty much EVERY retail brand contains some of these additives.  Some even have added dextrose!

I should have twigged when the cream had an expiry date that was two months off, but I really didn’t read it.

I found the closest grocery store carries a brand of organic cream which doesn’t have the additives but it is $7 a pint and doesn’t taste like the cream I am used to.  So I did a bit of research and found out that a specialized organic dairy supplies a health food store locally – so I checked in with them.  They get a delivery every two weeks and you need to pre-order, so I set-up a standing order.  Same price as the other, but it comes in a glass bottle (flashback to my childhood!) and is very thick (almost lumpy!) and tastes divine.

I could never figure out why the LCHF/Keto sites were always specifying “organic cream” when cream was cream.  Guess I now know why.

I’ve started carrying my reading glasses to shop now!  Have to read ALL the labels, all the time.  Even pork rinds for crying out loud!!  Sheesh.

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Halloween Fun with the kids

This is my first Halloween in Ontario with my sister’s family.  Today we carved pumpkins (by we I mean “me” mostly.)

I have to say I am really impressed with the pumpkins here in Southern Ontario – big, orange, ripe and so easy to clean out!  My niece chose the white pumpkin to design her face on – these must be a hybrid of some sort as I swear it smells, looks and tastes like a honeydew melon inside.

I carved the orange one and my niece drew her design on the white one but it was too difficult for her to carve it, so I finished it for her.

We are pretty happy with the results!


I did suffer an injury though…


Sliced right across the pad of my right index finger (Top Tip: Don’t hold THE BLADE of the knife when trimming the edges!)  My sister applied first aid… I think these are Troll bandaids?  It wasn’t too bad thankfully as I have clients later!

Hope everyone has a fun Halloween!

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Only four more sleeps in Grande Prairie

The last month has been a whirl. I completed a training program and did a practicum, and my house sold.

I am leaving for Ajax, Ontario on Saturday. I’m leaving before the possession date for the house as I need to get on the road before snow hits – it is a 4000 km drive, and you never know what will happen in October – so I am taking off now.

I am only taking what fits in my RAV4 so have been liquidating like crazy!  Selling things, donating things, giving things to people I know (even if they don’t really want them…) I had a Moving Sale on Sunday which went okay but lots left over, so a big load is going to Goodwill in the morning.

Friends have come to help me pack and sort – for which I am eternally grateful!  We managed to get everything I wanted to take packed so that it will fit in my RAV4!  I was actually planning to ship/mail out some things, but luckily don’t have to.

I had originally thought I would have to be hauling tires with me, which would have drastically reduced the cargo space, but I had an epiphany and called Kaltire (where I store my tires and buy them from, etc.) and they will ship them out to the store closest to my new location! Bonus! So I can use every bit of the room in the RAV4 for my stuff!

I went and bought a rooftop cargo carrier as well, so that the odd shaped things – my make-up chair, trolleys, Dyson vacuum and heater/fan, etc. can go with me. We also vacuumed packed my winter coats to put in there for padding.

I’ve been making innumerable lists and crossing things off as I go. Thought I had thought of everything but suddenly remembered that I needed to forward my mail! So I ran to the post office to do that.

Got the RAV4 serviced on Monday, and detailed today. Tomorrow and Thursday I have appointments to take care of paperwork, and Friday need to go vote in the advanced poll. As I am still a property owner here on Election Day I don’t want to miss voting.

I’ve been updating my online presence over the last week. I am in a lot of places online! I removed my Grande Prairie ads and posted new ads for Ajax and I’ve already got bookings and inquiries for Halloween!

I had to give in and get a phone thing.  Sigh.  Not really enjoying it.  A Samsung Galaxy A5.  I am finding it really frustrating and annoying. Stupid swiping.  However, I need something on the long drive, and to use when I get out there.  It is hard to see too.

My nephew is flying out from Ajax to meet me in Edmonton and share the driving. That is a good thing as I can only manage about 5 hours at a stretch before stopping – would take me two weeks to get there.  He’s young and can do the long stretches. He has to be back by Thursday, so we have four days to get from Edmonton to Ajax.

I’ve emptied my planters and am tidying up the yard. Because that’s just how I roll.  I’m leaving the buyers a lot of things as it saves having to deal with getting rid of them.

The tree in front yard dropped all its leaves this morning, all at once.  I’m hoping for a lot of wind overnight or I’ll be raking them up tomorrow.  Thursday morning is my last garbage day so I need to get all the garbage, recycling and yard waste out.


Last week I emptied my four-drawer filing cabinet and shredded for days, got that all out for last week’s garbage day.


There is still so much to do!

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30 Paintings in 30 Days

I decided to participate in a 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge. Seemed like a great opportunity to practise my watercolour painting. A friend who is a professional artist in New Jersey put me onto it last week so I figured, why not?

30 Paintings In 30 Days Challenge is posted on a blog where you can “register” to participate if you want to be officially doing it. You post your daily art on the blog for each day by linking to your work. I’ve been posting to my Shannon Fennell Art Facebook page and linking to that.

Everyday in the month of September I will be posting a new painting.  Today is Day 7 – and I’ve managed to post all seven!  Yay!

As I am still learning watercolour techniques some paintings are more doodles where I play around with the paint trying things.  Others are turning out pretty cool!

I started to learn watercolour painting just over a year ago by taking a class at the Centre for Creative Art and loved it. Since then the classes haven’t been offered at a time I can attend so I have some books and use the internet to learn things. I’ve had spurts of painting and playing around with it but this is a good reason to make myself do something every day and get better at it.

For some of my paintings I have used alcohol markers to draw parts of the design then used the watercolours on top. I love that!

Here are my first seven paintings in order by day.

September 1st.

Sep 1 17

September 2nd.

Sep 2 17

September 3rd.

Sept 3 17

September 4th. “Ketchikan Sunset” from a photo by my brother-in-law taken on the cruise they were on  last week.

Sept 4 17

September 5th. “Coneflowers” inspired by a photo image by Chipabirdee Images by Marilyn Grubb.

Sept 5 17

September 6th.  “Moai”

Sept 6 17

And today, September 7th.

Sept 7 17

I have determined that some paints are much better than others – I picked up a palette of hard cakes which are very opaque and don’t make very good washes. The tubes of paint are much brighter and translucent. And I love that I can sit down and paint something without having to set-up an easel and make a mess to clean up, and it is a fast process as well.

I’m having fun!




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Dough Balls – sounds unappetizing, but they aren’t too bad

It has been a bit since I posted a recipe. But I thought I would try making some “dough balls”… I wasn’t too sure about it though.

I’ve seen a few recipes popping up and the last one looked decent. But I didn’t have the specific ingredients, and decided that I would alter the whole process.

So… while they are “doughy” when fresh out of the oven, they are tasty dipped in melted butter. Once they are completely cool they are more bread-like in consistency.

As I hate using just part of something in a recipe I used probably more cheese in this than necessary, but it still worked out.


Cheesy Dough Balls

Pre-heat oven to 350F, and line a pan with parchment paper.


One 340 gram (or thereabouts) package of Mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup of butter

2 eggs

2 tbsp each of fresh herbs of your choice – I used chives and thyme. Add as many as you like. These hold up to strong flavours.

3/4 cup of coconut flour

2 tbsp psyllium husk powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp garlic powder


  1. Measure out the dry ingredients into a small bowl and combine.
  2. Chop or shred the mozzarella into a microwave safe bowl and put in the microwave on high for 30 seconds or so. Take out and stir. Keep nuking it in 30 second bursts until it is completely melted.
  3. Add the butter and herbs to the cheese and mix in as best you can. You might need to nuke for another burst.
  4. Add the eggs and work in until reasonably mixed in.
  5. Add all the dry ingredients and stir to combine as much as possible, then you need to start working it with your hands. Knead it as you have to work the dry into the cheese mixture really well. It will form a fairly even dough. This may take several minutes of kneading.
  6. Pinch off the dough and roll into ping-pong ball sized balls. Line up on the parchment close together in a rectangle.
  7. Bake at 350F for approximately 20 minutes – they should be browning on top.
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.

I dipped them in melted butter to eat while warm. I then brushed melted butter over the remaining balls.

These are definitely better the second day!  The flavourings take over the coconut flour taste which make them much more tasty.

I think the next time I do this I will amp up the flavourings – more herbs, maybe pepper or other spicier things, maybe onions or green chillies. And maybe reduce the mozzarella bit and add in a strong cheese.

Also, it might work to wrap the dough around something – like a piece of cheese or meat, or an olive… would make a nice appetizer or snack.