Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


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Big changes afoot

After almost 18 years in Grande Prairie, Alberta I will be moving on.  I will be moving to Ontario to be close to family – having nearby family is important and I no longer have any around here.

My house went on the market on Monday and it has been shown everyday to very positive responses.  It is a pretty damn nice house!  You can click on the photo to see the listing if you want.

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I have been working steady to clear out the house – selling off furnishings and stuff, culling, shredding and recycling.  So far I’ve donated five full loads to different groups, and sold off my dining room and hutch, all twin beds, my bedroom suite (which I only just bought!) dressers, shelves, cedar chest and loads of smaller items.

I am working through the house a room at a time, getting all the furnishings out/sold and then making sure everything is clean and perfect in that space as I can leave it.

It is amazing the stuff you carry around.  I am only taking personal things – clothes, business tools, important treasures, so am being ruthless.  I had been hauling around a china lamb that had a “basket” – a baby room item.  I bought it at a rummage sale when I was 10 years old.  I really liked it.  I think I paid 10 cents for it.  However… ahem, why the heck have I packed that thing around for 46 years?  Hmmm?  It’s gone now – donated it.

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The furnishings are easy.  It is the little things that are harder.  All the souvenirs we bought on our travels, for example.  I’ve got a mahogany trunk, wooden dishes and containers, small statues, Northwest Haida bentwood box and plaques, small stools, mats, tiles… I’m going to have to pick the most important, to me, to keep.

I’ve also got all the art to deal with – paintings and larger work.  There are at least half a dozen larger ones I want to keep.  The rest… not sure what I can do.  I will try to sell, and maybe give to friends (only if they like them).  Last resort – donate.

The biggest headache is my office and studio.  I’ve got 20 years of accumulated make-up supplies and equipment, PLUS my records and paperwork.  I kept all my charts from shows (all in binders) and photos of my work.  I will be scanning everything I can and then getting rid of the paper.

The culling of the make-up supplies is going to be the biggest challenge.  I build props as well so have bins full of reuseable things that come in handy – used dryer sheets, odd-shaped plastics, bits of wire, fun foam, bamboo, dowels, etc.  So much stuff.  I’ve already recycled a couple of blue bags worth of plastic containers to empty a dresser.  Then there are all the prosthetic supplies.

And the costumes and accessories!  I have bin upon bin of hair accessories, a trunk full of costumes, a shelf of hats, and props lying around.

But… one thing at a time.  That’s the only way to handle it.

So… huge change, but I am ready to head off on a new adventure in a new place. Although… I am feeling a tad anxious about driving in the traffic of the Greater Toronto Area!

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LCHF Naan-Style Flatbread

When I switched to eating LCHF I struggled a bit with carbs as I missed them.  I experimented with recipes for “substitute” items made with nut and/or coconut flour but was supremely disappointed with the results.

However, time, as they say, heals all “wounds.” After 19 months of no carbs I have now discovered that my toleration level of these replacement items has improved drastically. Sure the textures are sometimes not quite right, but I haven’t had the real thing for long enough that my taste buds are accepting them. And mentally, I have adapted too – I’m not expecting an identical replacement item.

I’ve also learned what I need to do to recipes to make them suit my tastes and expectations. There is a definite learning curve to baking with nut, coconut and seed flours but once you’ve tried a few different recipes and processes you get the hang of it.

And one very important thing – keep your nuts, flours, seeds, etc. in the fridge! I went to use my psyllium husk powder to discover it was going rancid! The mason jars I keep them in work great in the fridge or the freezer.

I saw a recipe for LCHF Flatbread – the photos looked good (but we all know those can be staged!)  As I am home today (had eye injections, again, this morning) and it is hotter than heck outside (so not mowing or gardening!) I decided to give it a shot.

I messed around with the ingredients and have to say that I am pretty impressed with how it worked out.  Coconut flour isn’t my favourite as I find the flavour too strong, but in this recipe it works.

LCHF Naan-Style Flatbread

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Coconut Flour

2 Tbsp Psyllium Husk Powder

1 Tsp Baking Powder

1/2 Tsp Salt

Optional: Garlic powder, herbs, other flavours to suit you preference (in this batch I added a couple of shakes of garlic powder.)

1/3 Cup melted butter

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Cup BOILING water

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Directions:

  1. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Add the melted butter and olive oil to the dry ingredients and mix until it starts sticking together – it should be starting to clump up at the very least or resemble nut butter texture at the most (I would add a bit more olive oil if it isn’t starting to bind up.)
  3. Had HALF (1/2 Cup) of the of the boiling water and mix until it forms a ball of dough. It will seem to be a good dough at this point and you may wonder if you need the rest of the water BUT YOU DO!  Remember, coconut flour is so freaking absorbent that it will end up too dry if you don’t!
  4. Add the rest of the BOILING water and mix, again, until a dough ball forms.  Work it a bit (you can use your hands if you want, but it isn’t necessary) to a smooth consistency.
  5. Divide into four portions – I just cut the ball in quarters with a knife.
  6. The dough is not sticky and you could just shape it with your hands, or you can roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper – which is what I did as I wanted them fairly thin.
  7. Dry fry in a large non-stick frying pan over med-high heat.  When placing in the pan, do it carefully so you don’t get creases or tears – the dough does hold together but using both hands and laying it down from the centre keeps it flat!
  8.  The top will start to look dry and that is the time to flip it over.  It takes around 2-3 minutes each.

I ate one warm with butter and it was really very good!  (It was my first one… which was crumpled up as I didn’t put it in the pan carefully enough.) The other three I will eat over the next day or so – I am looking forward to a wrap, and maybe a hot dip, or curry!

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The texture is spot on, the bread tears like a “normal” Naan-type flatbread, it holds spreads and dips well too.  The olive oil and the bit of garlic powder counter-acted the coconut flour flavour enough for me to not notice it.


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Easy Ice Cream, literally – it is frozen cream

I really have missed ice cream.  But last week saw a recipe for Mason Jar Ice Cream so I tried it… O.M.G.  (Here is that recipe… Low Carb Chocolate Mason Jar Ice Cream)

I changed things a tad (of course) and used a quart jar instead of a pint, but I found the jar to be annoying to eat out of.

I substituted dissolved saccharine tablets for the sweetener called for.  This was the first time I used artificial sweetener in anything – I don’t get an aftertaste with saccharine, so decided to try.  I used too much so scaled it back a lot when I did this second version.

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I decided to make a bigger batch and use a hand mixer, and to freeze in a container that was convenient to scoop out of!  I also changed the proportions of ingredients a bit to suit me.

So this is the way I made it today…

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LCHF Chocolate Ice Cream

Put your bowl and the beaters in the freezer while you assemble your ingredients – you’ll get quicker results when you start beating!

You’ll need a lidded container of at least one quart capacity to freeze this in.

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp of SIFTED unsweetened cocoa (I will be increasing this for future batches to probably 1/3 to 1/2 a cup – I like rich dark chocolate.  But this batch was made with 3 tbsp.)

5 saccharine tablets completely dissolved in less than 1/2 tsp of BOILING water

2 cups of whipping cream (33% or higher m.f.)

Add all the ingredients to the cold bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer (or use a stand mixer.) Start low as the cocoa powder will want to fly around, once mixed in put on high and beat until it has doubled in volume and is stiff.  Add any extras at this time and mix just enough to blend through.

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OPTIONS:  finely chopped 85% cocoa dark chocolate, toasted nuts, unsweetened peanut butter (drop into the cream in tiny bits), etc.  You could also skip the chocolate and use other flavour extracts or, if you aren’t worried about sugar content, you could add fruits.

Using a rubber spatula transfer to your quart container and smooth out the top, put on the lid and freeze for at least three hours.

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You could also put into a popsicle mold to make fudgesicles!  That’s my next batch.

I’m not sure how long this keeps in the freezer… I haven’t let it stay in there long enough to figure out.

I don’t have an ice cream scoop so dug it out with a teaspoon and made a bit of a mess! Could have waited for it soften a bit… but, well…  I had it with one of my Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes that I made on Saturday.

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YUM!

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Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes! Oh yes I did!

It has been a while since I posted a recipe.  I do have a couple to share but will start with the cupcakes I made today!

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As always… a recipe caught my eye, but I changed it a lot.  Added, removed, increased, etc. until it bears no resemblance to the original version.

The recipe that I saw was for a cake with walnuts… I hate walnuts.  Also, didn’t want a cake, cupcakes keep and store easier in the freezer.  I also don’t use powdered sugar substitutes.

Up until last week I wasn’t using ANY sugar substitutes at all, but I discovered that saccharine is available in the pill form here.  My granny used to use it and as kids we would try it… never had an aftertaste for me.  So… I bought a bottle of Hermesetas tablets.  The only thing I’ve used it in so far has been ice cream I made last week (I will post about that later!) and this recipe.

I just dissolve a few tablets in about 1/8 tsp of boiling water and add to the recipe for a touch of sweetness. Each pill is equal to a teaspoon of sugar.  I am not adding the amount called for in the recipes as I don’t need it to be really sweet, but felt the ice cream could use a some, and then this recipe was an experiment to see if it would work.  It did.

So here is the recipe I came up with today for Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes.

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Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes – LCHF, Gluten Free, Sugar Free

Makes 6 large cupcakes (or one 8″ cake if you prefer.)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup cream cheese

1/4 cup coconut oil

3 eggs

4 saccharine tablets dissolved in 1/8 tsp of boiling water (you can substitute whatever sweetener you want and increase to make this more of a regular sweetness level.)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 cup almond flour

1 tbsp coconut flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup cream

1/4 cup of chopped pecans (or any kind of nut you like) – completely optional BTW.

Topping: Lindt 85% Cocoa Chocolate bar – 6 pieces.

Instructions:

  1. Line a muffin tin with paper liners (or grease an 8″ cake pan in your preferred manner.)
  2. Measure all the dry ingredients together and stir, except for the nuts.
  3. Cream the coconut oil (I did not melt it first) and the cream cheese with an electric mixer, add the eggs one at a time, add the vanilla, and dissolved saccharine, and continue mixing on high.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and the cream about a third at a time, alternating between additions.  If the batter is too thick add a little more cream.  It should be thick but pourable like regular cake batter.
  5. Add the nuts and mix until combined.
  6. Divided batter between the six cupcake liners.
  7. Bake at 350F on the centre rack for 20-25 minutes.  They are done when a toothpick comes out clean. Ovens vary so it might take a few minutes more or less.
  8. Take them out of the oven and immediately place a piece of the Lindt chocolate on top of each cupcake, when it has melted spread it around.
  9. Let cool completely.

I like to freeze them once cool and eat them frozen!

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I am very pleased with how these turned out!  Ate one and the rest are in the freezer. Tomorrow I am making more ice cream and intend to have cake and ice cream!  Who said you have to give up treats when you are a diabetic who follows LCHF/HP??? Not this girl!

 

 


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It is June… again

What happened to May? I don’t remember it happening. Time flies by so fast and it gets faster and faster as it goes by.

Remember when you were a kid and waiting three whole sleeps seemed like years and years? There will come a time when you really wish time would move that slowly again.

I’m sitting at home right now waiting for my eyes to clear (nice thing about computers is you can set the zoom to 200%.) Had injections in both this morning – they were leaking again.

I had originally been scheduled for an injection in my left eye for June 12 and lasers in my right on June 9.  I woke up Tuesday morning last week and had no focus ability in my right eye.  I had been at the eye doctor’s on the prior Thursday and everything was fine, by Tuesday had sprung a very bad leak.  So they bumped up my injection to the next available date, for both eyes.  No lasers now.

I asked the doctor about the prognosis – I was wondering if I needed to make long-term contingency plans for having minimal sight left or blindness at some point.  He assured me that as long as I am controlling my diabetes and blood pressure that eventually the treatments will eliminate the constant leaks and that in 80% of patients the injections stop and the sight is improved.  Just hope I am not one of the other 20%.

 

So, since I am keeping things under control everything should eventually stabilize.

It has been a nice Spring so far – warm and periodic rain.  Which means mowing the lawn every five to seven days.  Which is a pain.

My apple tree bloomed on ALL branches this year for the first time!  Each branch is a different variety.  It is called a 5-in-1 and all varieties are hardy to the climate up here. It is a dwarf stock so will stay small.  I pruned it quite well last Fall to keep it easy to reach.

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And lots of blossoms too. I did not see a single bee on it though, thankfully it was crawling with ants (and ladybugs) so they will have pollinated it. Should get lots of apples this year if the weather cooperates.

Plantings in the front are doing well too. I decided to cull out the Prairie Mallow as some of were massive and choking out other plants.  As I wanted to give the Hollyhocks a chance to colonize the west bed in front of the house I killed all but two of the Prairie Mallows. Yes, I am a horrible person.  But I let the Prairie Mallow keep the back corner of the backyard.

The perennials I planted last year (got from friends around town) are doing great!  Both clumps of day lilies started blooming this week, and two of the other things are growing well – still haven’t found out what they are called though.  My clematis plants are growing about a foot a day.

This was taken a week ago – the petunias are twice this size at least now. And I’ve been harvesting the herbs already; it is so nice to have a fresh herb omelette for breakfast!

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This is the final weekend of the last show of the season at Grande Prairie Live Theatre. It is the “family show” so the weekends are three matinees – two on Saturday and one on Sunday, and a Friday night show. “Robin Hood and the Heroes of Sherwood Forest” is the show.

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Next weekend I will be face painting in Dawson Creek, and Summer season will officially be kicking into full gear. I was ordering supplies last night to restock the essentials. When I have a crew of 10 working we go through a lot of rainbow cakes!

 

 


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The New Me – Documented

With my whole lifestyle change over the last couple of years I was wanting to get some proper, professional photographs of myself.  I wanted some headshots (I act occasionally and needed at least one proper one), some suitable for business use and promotion, and some just for my own satisfaction – to show how I’ve changed physically.

Other than school photos or those horrible family photo sessions, I had never had a professional photo shoot of myself for my own reasons.  I have photos taken by pros but I was an accidental subject, or the photos were for someone else’s use (for magazine profiles for example.)  I have some very nice photos – but they were of the “old” me.

So this past Sunday I finally had my photo shoot with MAJ Photography (her website is this link) in Grande Prairie. Maj had taken my photo before at different times and I knew she is great at portraits and getting natural looking shots of all sorts of people. I can’t recommend her highly enough.

This is one she took for a magazine feature about me in 2013.

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And this next one she took when we were both at a local event last December. I was wearing my new coat and asked her to take some photos of it for me.

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We finally got it coordinated and last Sunday was the day!

I had a mini-crisis trying to decide what to wear. Even with a closet full of new clothes I had a hard time choosing. I hadn’t actually realized HOW many tops I’d managed to acquire in the last eight months or so – since I got to my current size. I counted all of them while I was trying things on to pick out what I thought were the best. Keep in mind that there are a couple dozen $5 t-shirts from Michael’s, but I have probably around 70 tops. That includes turtlenecks for winter, sweaters, fleeces, blouses, tunics, and Aloha shirts… Some were my mom’s and now fit me so I kept them.  And some are oversized that I’ve kept for gardening and messing around with crafts, etc.

Anyhow… after a marathon session of trying on various things, I narrowed it down to eight tops I liked and thought looked really nice. I left the final choice to the photographer. When she got here she chose four of them – based on the backgrounds and contrast needed.

We were at it for four hours!  Started in my basement studio with two different backgrounds – the painted wall and my black backdrop. Then we went to a local park as it was a beautiful Spring day, in front of the Courthouse, then inside the Art Gallery in three different spots, then outside the Cultural Centre on the patio.  We were all over the place.

Maj was really fast getting the images to me! We did the shoot Sunday afternoon and I had the files by Tuesday afternoon.

I am beyond thrilled with how they turned out.  Maj sent me close to 40 shots to use and all are great, but I have my favourites.

These three are for using for promoting my make-up services.  I was sitting sideways in my make-up chair leaning over the back in the two.

This was a studio shot.

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The rest of these were taken at the park, in front of the Courthouse, in the Art Gallery and on the Cultural Centre patio.  I love the natural light – and my beautiful blouse from Morocco looks great with my leggings and boots.  This is a bit of overkill with multiple shots but I love them all and couldn’t narrow it down any further.

The fact that I actually got down and sat on the floor is a testament to Maj’s skill, as I don’t get down that low for just anyone!  Getting up involved railings and a lot of leverage.

I think this is my favourite – I am adjusting to how I look as it is still so new to me. Losing 200 pounds is a lot of difference.

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Getting old sucks

Honestly, when you get over 50 it is like your warranty has expired and everything just starts falling apart.

I was having some vision issues with my left eye over the last couple of weeks so I called the ophthalmologist’s office and they fit me in immediately (always a bad sign IMO) to check it out.

It is bleeding in there again – so they are scheduling me for more injections.  Sigh.  The eye was fine in the scans they did in February.  The last injection in my left eye was in October… so the treatment only cleared it up for six months.

I had been under the impression that once the Lucentis cleared up the blood that was clouding up the inside of the eyeball that it would be fine as long as I kept my blood sugar controlled.  Apparently not.  The damage was done and the blood vessels were compromised so it can keep happening.

So the rest of my life I’ll be having retina scans regularly.  Yay.  And injections in my eyeballs. Oh joy.  But better than going blind.

But at least they are able to “fix” it!  Modern medical marvels and all that.

I’m a wreck really.

I didn’t mention it in my Moroccan trip blog posts, but fell off the stairs in the hotel in Fes and sprained my ankle. I was NOT going to miss anything on that trip and as I could bear weight, I continued to do everything.  Our guide got me an ankle brace, which kept it steady. Most of the doctors in our tour group told me to go for an x-ray, but I figured since that ankle already had a plate and seven screws in it, it would hold together until I got home.

It did… but was uncomfortable and swollen every evening. I slept with it elevated and thankfully had taken my pain pills with me. I had fallen in early March and had a severely bruised hip – my doctor told me to stay ahead of the pain. (I mentioned I’m a wreck, right?)

On the way home my leg was so bad after the flight from Casablanca to Amsterdam that I upgraded to First Class for the rest of the trip.  I had to overnight in Amsterdam and my leg was so swollen I couldn’t get my slacks off… I wasn’t going to manage a 9-hour flight with my leg hanging down.

Saw my doctor and got x-rays done – no bone or metal damage, just a severe sprain.  So I spent that week laying on my recliner, ankle up, wrapped and iced. Took three days for the swelling to disappear.  I saw the doctor last week for a follow-up – I’m keeping it wrapped and being careful.  If it is still sore next week I need to see him again.

Lately every single x-ray I have had, has shown degeneration that was not a result of the reason I was getting the x-ray.  My doctor scared the heck out of me after an x-ray of my back, telling my I had Degenerative Disk Disease – which is just wear and tear on my spine.  My hip, knees, ankles, shoulders, hands too… I’m just a hot mess.

Guess spending all of my life carrying up to 200 pounds of extra weight put a lot of stress on my skeletal structure.  Losing the excess has helped so much with my knees in particular, which were always a problem for me, even as a child.

It was a beautiful day yesterday so I went for a nice long walk with a friend.  I should really do that way more often!  And I finally got back to the gym this week too – after being unable to go due to the hip injury, being on vacation and then the sprained ankle! I’m hoping to be back to my regular routine next week.

It is almost time to mow the lawn too… if it dries up a bit more today I may do it tomorrow.  Actual gardening and planting won’t be for at least another month, but I’ve cleaned out the beds and pruned back the perennials.