Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


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Finally a chance to bake!

The only roommate that was still here with me moved out this week (the other three went home when the campuses closed and will be back for school in September.) I am currently all alone and very happy about it! I’ve been holed up in my room to avoid people and the virus, but now I have the run of the place and KNOW that once I’ve cleaned it will stay clean.  And… I can now hang out in the  living room and watch TV again! I haven’t done that in over two months.

After spending two hours cleaning and disinfecting the common area, the kitchen, sorting out the communal cupboards, clearing out the fridge of mouldy mystery things, slimy vegetables, solidified cream cheese (the tub actually rattled!) and a multitude of opened jars and bottles with BB dates a year or two ago, it is looking good out there.

I finally had a chance to use up the leftover almond flour I had from February. I used all of it which was maybe two cups worth, psyllium husk powder (didn’t use all of that), shredded coconut (possibly about two cups too, it thickly covered the bottom of a 10″ frying pan when I toasted it first,) baking powder, salt, about three tablespoons of melted butter (was three heaping soup spoons out of the butter dish,) three eggs and a glug of cream. I did not measure anything as the purpose was to use up the almond flour AND the coconut (which was left over from Christmas – I had it in the freezer.)

I almost added aged cheddar… I was going back and forth on that idea. Even got it and the grater out when getting set-up. But changed my mind. It would have been good with the coconut, but I thought this might be more cookie than biscuit when done, so decided to leave it out.

I combined the dry in a bowl, dumped in the melted butter and mixed well, then added the rest of the wet, and combined. I let it rest for a couple of minutes to allow the batter to thicken and absorb the moisture.

Then used a soup spoon to drop rough rounds onto a parchment covered baking sheet. I sprayed the parchment with a non-stick spray first as this was cheap parchment and I’ve had bad luck with it.

Baked at 425F for something like 20 minutes, then turned it down to 350F and watched them. I was puttering in the kitchen so just kept checking them until the bottoms were nicely browned. Then I tested one – sometimes these ingredients don’t dry out in the middle too well… but it was dryish. So pulled them out. And put on  a paper towel to cool.

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They’re great! And really held their shape. Last time I made baking powder biscuits with almond flour, they spread out like pancakes, these ones stayed up and don’t crumble, and have a really nice crumb.

Very buttery as I put in so much butter, and the coconut is there but not overpowering. I am glad I decided to toast it before adding to the mix.

All in all really excellent! I’ve always made baking powder biscuits without recipes and never measured. Now that I only use low carb ingredients it gets more challenging, but I guess I’ve finally figured it out! Of course… the next time may not work out as well.

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Day 61…

And… here we are. 61 days since the pandemic was declared and 54 that I’ve been in self-isolation.

So how is it going for you? I’m still good. Turning to jelly from lack of exercise but otherwise fine.

I now have a selection of masks. One for going where there might be people. Another couple for in the house (to protect myself from the roommate AND the spray disinfectants I’m using every single time I leave my room) and one I use to run down to the mailbox or dumpster.

My going out mask is from a friend – it is fabric and has a double layer so filters can be inserted. I put ties on it as the ear elastics weren’t holding it to my face properly, and also attached the metal nose piece from one of my paper masks to it. Fits very comfortably, and firmly, now.

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I was finally able to order groceries for pick-up from the supermarket. They had just extended their hours when I happened to be randomly checking the websites and there was a time slot open – it is 9-10 p.m. on Saturday. So I can now get some meat, a few fresh vegetables, some “good” cheeses,  pesto and other items I can’t get at the drug store up the block; they cater to students being right across the street from the campus of a college and a university – so, while I can get eggs, cream, butter and a few other things (when they are in stock,) it doesn’t provide me with everything I need or want.

Granted going out that late will be a challenge – I go to bed around 9:30! But I will deal with it. I’ve got the college parking lot pretty much to myself!

I’ve been doing all my laundry by hand in my room. I have no desire to go upstairs to use the washer/dryer as they are right outside the roommate’s door. The other three that live here have gone home for the summer, and the two of us are the only ones here. She works in a long term care facility. She mentioned to me in passing about three weeks ago that a staff member had tested positive. She takes no precautions coming home from work. I don’t have enough disinfectant to deal with two flights of stairs, two landings, and the machines.

I had a laundry line and clothes pins from my adventures last year, so have rigged up the line in my shower stall, and things dry pretty fast as there is a heat vent in the ceiling of the bathroom. And frankly, it gives me something to do every day or two.

Final grades were posted for the year on April 28th.  I’ve got no issues. GPA is 5.0 again. Got 100% in Painting IV, 99% in Mass Extinctions, 98% in Art Survey II, 97% in Fabrication Studio II and 95% in Ethics.

I’ve been working on scholarship applications and got one sent off. Have a couple others involving reading and writing to work on.

I finished reading a book by Jerry Saltz (senior art critic at New York magazine and 2018 Pulitzer Prize winner for Criticism) called How To Be An Artist. Was very good. To the point and entertaining at the same time. He even includes exercises that you can do to work on specific skills and develop your own vision. (Photo from his Twitter account)

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Started working on a painting project. Going to be a series of smaller paintings in sets – diptychs, triptychs, etc. all the same theme and mediums. The plan right now is to keep them in the same style but that may morph as I work through the whole 35 of them!

This is the first triptych – might be done, or not. Haven’t decided. But I was pleased with how they turned out. They are all on 4×6″ canvas board, in acrylic and alcohol ink.

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I’ve got them where I can see them and think about whether I am going to add to them.  My original plan did include more, but not sure if I like them better as is. I’ve printed off copies of them to play around on to see what they will look like.

I like doing small work and what I have available to paint on is mostly small. 2×3″ up to 8×10″, and just one 12×16″. I plan to paint them all, starting with the smallest, so I’ve primed them with several layers of gesso.

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I’ve spent the last two days making lists of subjects to paint, researching and planning colours, etc. And then sorting into the groupings I want to create. Also matching background colours to subjects. I don’t want any backgrounds to be the same, they all have to be different. As all my yellow artists paints are in my locker on campus, I will have to improvise with that colour.

Next year is thesis year… this project could tie into that. Thirty-five paintings would definitely be a start for the year end show! Hmm… will ponder and write some ideas down for that.

Stay safe everyone.


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Hey world, are we done yet?

So… here we are.  What, 35 or 36 days since the pandemic was declared? I’ve been self-isolating since March 16th, just venturing out for food, an eye appointment… and this week called an ambulance (called the doctor who told me to get to the ER immediately) and spent most of a day in ER. I’m okay, but could have been something serious.

Ontario is staying “closed” for another month, at least. Which takes us to mid-May. My summer job was supposed to start May 1st on campus. Pretty sure it isn’t going to be available now. But in the good news category, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit was expanded (announced today by PM Trudeau) and I will now qualify! So that is a relief – usually earn my tuition for the year over the summer. The benefit will at least let me keep up with things.

Watching shows on YouTube – musicals. Andrew Lloyd Weber and Universal are running a production every Friday for 48 hours. First week was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (with Donny Osmond) and last Friday was Jesus Christ Superstar (with Tim Minchin as Judas and Mel C [she was Sporty Spice, right?] as Mary M) which was excellent! This week it is Phantom of the Opera. Right now I’m listening to the Les Mis 10th Anniversary Concert. I love that show.

I started posting travel photos on my Instagram – it is fun to go through all my files and find nice shots I’ve taken on our travels around the world. Taking many trips down memory lane while I click through them.

End of the semester is this Friday – I finished my last project yesterday, and have everything submitted. Now wait for marks, and then my final grades to post in a week or so. Got through it, but I am not a fan of online learning. Hope to hell they don’t decide to change the program after this “experiment” in doing everything that way.

I’m still doing the live watercolour paint-alongs on Facebook (missed the last few so need to catch-up,) and some online drawing classes, in between getting all my class projects and assignments done. Was challenging to get the final three paintings and a sculpture done in my room – most of my kit that I would normally use is still in my locker on campus which is on lockdown. So… improvisation was the name of the game.

Here is a bunch of stuff I’ve done over the last weeks – both the fun pass the time and school projects. All are watercolour, except for the apple. That is pencil crayon (aka coloured pencil.) I want to learn how to use them and did an online course with BluPrint which is currently offering all their online courses for free.

The diptych (the two paintings in the one photo) and the other geometric design were assignments (I was inspired by geometric abstraction/Orphism,) the rest are from the paint-along I’ve been doing – learning basic techniques and playing around! I’m happy with my Flamingo – I actually didn’t follow along on that one, I found my own reference photo and worked from that.

As I no longer have the school deadlines to keep me motivated… we’ll see how it goes. I plan to do some reading (need to read Atlas Shrugged – wish me luck with that!) and keep on working with watercolours and pencil crayons. And have a mural to finish designing for a commission – to be done once we are allowed out again.

Stay healthy everyone. Stay home!


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A little self-isolation

Well, the world is certainly a different place than it was two weeks ago. Not unexpectedly. Confirmed cases of Covid-19 are jumping and  death rate is climbing. Several friends around the world are now reporting family, close friends and neighbours are infected. There was also an employee from the college confirmed – travel related. So shit is getting real.

Here in Ontario all but essential services are now closed. People are to stay home, and only leave their homes to get food and medicine. You aren’t supposed to be within 2 metres or 6-10 feet of other people. Unfortunately a lot of people just aren’t getting it!

The government is going to start enforcing the stay home rules, and are already arresting people who break the mandatory 14-day quarantine after returning to the country.

People are still hoarding… really difficult to find toilet paper and disinfectants. Some stores are gouging – saw Ontario Premier Doug Ford on the news and he was LIVID. They will be enacting legislation about it tomorrow and he said they are going after the price gougers. Good. Hopefully that will apply to the cretins who bought up everything they could to resell.

I’ve decided to stay off Twitter – too much US news. It is terrifying to watch the damage Trump has caused by his inaction and greed. I firmly am of the opinion he was stalling as he was trying to figure out how HE could make money off of it.

It is nice to see some billionaires actually doing something – Dyson designed a new ventilator in 10 days and is building 15,000 for the NHS in the UK. Elon Musk has been getting shipments of PPE and other equipment to hospitals around the US for over a week, and is getting set-up to manufacture ventilators. Some corporations are still paying their staff after closing. Others are… well selfish bastards. Imagine the richest man in the world setting up a Go Fund Me to cover employees who can’t work??? Well you don’t have to imagine it because it is true! All this stuff is in the news.

My poor hands are so dried out I’ve scraped my face with the skin on them! Now… I know you aren’t supposed to touch your face, but my hands are clean! And how the hell do you NOT touch your face. I have to keep remembering to moisturize.

Trying to get groceries delivered or order for pick-up is not working for me. All the local ways to do that have about a 10-day wait, and that’s for pick-up of an order! It is nuts.

As I had to go to a eye appointment (not something I could put off) early on Tuesday, I decided to stop for groceries on my way home. I really did not want to go to a grocery store, but I needed fresh food. Luckily it was just after 8 a.m. and there were only a few people. Lots of fresh vegetables, NO frozen, none. Well, except okra but who eats that? I kept away from people and wiped down things when I got home. Washed and prepped the vegetable and put away.

The college is now completely locked down as of Tuesday. Up until then they were allowing individual access to the studios, labs and computers. But once all non-essential services were closed, they locked down. And the date they had given for return was cancelled, with no new date. So we won’t be returning.

Everything is online now. Which is an adjustment for me. I am trying to keep to a routine. And make sure I don’t miss due dates which is hard when you have no idea what day it is! I am working through all assignments that are open for me to do now. I like to work ahead if possible. Then I don’t have to worry about forgetting or being overloaded at the end of the semester.

I’ve been making art – doodling and watercolour. I do have some assignments as well which I will get at over the next few days. This is some of the stuff I’ve done over the last week.

The doodles were done with really cheap dollar store felt pens – I thought they were ballpoint when I bought them a couple years ago. They are decent – lots of ink and really excellent nibs. They aren’t Copics or anything really excellent artist quality, but for what I am doing they work great, are nice and bright and don’t bleed.

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A friend in the UK is doing a daily watercolour class live on Facebook (7 a.m. my time) so I’ve been participating. A good reason to keep to my early morning schedule. Everyone is staying home around the world and having an activity do like this is a good motivator to get up and do something.

Here’s my worktable. The LED lamp date/time is wrong. I had finally figured out how to set it but the power went off a couple weeks ago, and I can’t be bothered. My radio is precariously balanced to the right of it against the wall – and leans on the base of the lamp. Took two-days to find a spot in the room where the reception was steady so I have no desired to move it now! It is actually lying on its side as that is the only way to get a signal. The volume control is underneath now, so it stays on all the time.

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I am posting daily on my FB page in My Pandemic Journal. Just my observations about what is happening in the world and my life during the crisis. If you want to check it out it is linked. Nothing earth shattering, just daily ramblings and images.


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Well, aren’t we in a mess?

I am in Canada.

Today my college (and all colleges in Ontario) cancelled all in person classes until March 23rd. My college said it will be switching all classes to online for the rest of the semester.

Three of my classes won’t be too much hassle to finish online (there are only five weeks left in the year) but the other two are studio classes. They told us the campus is currently still open so I can go to the studio or workshop to work on my projects, but it won’t be a class for now.

They indicated we would be informed once things are sorted out and set-up for the rest of the semester. I hate waiting for information and answers but I am only one of some almost 14,000 full-time students so I will just have to take a breath and wash my hands, again, and wait.

I’m not sure if I will be able to, or required to, go to work at my student job at the college. Those wages are important – as a student employee I am an hourly employee, with no sick time. Also, my full-time summer job is supposed to start May 1… what happens then?

No one knows how long this is going to last. I’m all for taking every step and precaution possible to slow down the spread of the virus, but how long will it take to get this under control? I think it has been three months since it surfaced in China, and now it is pretty much everywhere.  I know no one has an answer to that…

Canada issued a Travel Advisory today to avoid all travel. So that means my planned road trip down to the states to visit some friends between end of semester and starting my summer job, is most likely not happening.

Over the last week I was face to face with at least a half a dozen sick students who were NOT being careful. First off, they were at school when they should have been home. Secondly, I witnessed many coughing and sneezing around groups of people (in line at the Tim Horton’s for example) without covering their mouths. Thirdly… NOT washing their hands after using the toilet – if they don’t wash them then, they aren’t washing at all. So lord knows, I may have been exposed already.

I worry a bit as I am not under 40 and I have a couple of underlying conditions that seem to be common in those that have died. On the plus side I am healthy and take care of myself so should be resilient. I am being careful, avoiding being too close to people, washing my hands, etc. But hell… not touching your face is HARD!

I went and got prescriptions renewed and filled them yesterday. Today ran some errands and picked up a few groceries. There were more people than usual in the places I stopped, BUT it wasn’t the mass riots seen on the news. Everyone only seemed to have a usual assortment of items and were a lot more conversational than I typically find. Although none of the stores had any toilet paper, hand sanitizer or disinfectant left, there was more coming – there is NOT a shortage of toilet paper.

What is with the toilet paper hoarding? We make the stuff here – all across the country, it isn’t hard to find, and always available. I just don’t understand it?

There is so much information – from downright dangerously wrong to expert official instructions – that is causing overload. It appears it is going to get a lot worse before it starts getting better.

So… be careful, cover your mouth, wash your hands, tell your loved ones you love them *hug them if safe to do so, snuggle your pets, eat good healthy food and indulge in your favourite treats, take your vitamins, get out in the sunlight, read some books, and seek medical attention if you get sick – call first per your local instructions! There’s not much else we can do other than keep positive… And for the love of all that’s holy: STOP HOARDING THE TOILET PAPER!


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Leapin’ Lizards… It is Leap Year!

I wasn’t consciously aware that 2020 was a Leap Year until the radio station started talking about it last weekend. As Friday was the 28th and thus payday, and the deadline for T4s and other tax forms, it wasn’t on my radar. But, it does explain why I had no “memories” on Facebook this morning!

Apparently this is my 15th Leap Year. As I wasn’t born on February 29th that’s an irrelevant fact. So… nevermind.

I’ve been on my “Reading Week” break from school this past week. It seemed like such a long break to me a week ago – I like being busy and having deadlines – but it now seems as if it went by very quickly. I did manage to work through most of my To-Do list. The two items not ticked off are in progress – finishing my Fabrication project (it was already marked but I need to do all the finishing to put it in the end of year show) and culling my stuff, again.

Mid-Term marks were posted this week – I’m happy. I received two 100% (Painting IV and Mass Extinctions which is a General Education elective), 96% in Art History II, 95% in Ethics (another elective) and 90% in Fabrication Studio II.

One of my paintings for class was on the theme of representing ourselves, so mine represents memories of childhood. We lived on the west coast of British Columbia overlooking Juan de Fuca Strait and could watch the Orcas and sunsets from our house.

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My current painting is in progress with the theme of Mythology and/or Mystery so I am doing another painting of Rapa Nui – my go-to favourite subject currently! So far just the underpainting is done.

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My Fabrication piece that is still being worked on is all fibre art – quilting, crewel work, embroidery, crossstitch, beadwork, etc. This is a photo of what I presented for marking – a lot was just pinned in place to show where it would (probably) be. I still have so much more to do on it.

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I am doing this all by hand, so all the seams are being hand-stitched which is going to take weeks. I spent six hours simply stitching seams as shown below and only completed nine inches… I calculate there are approximately 12 feet more of those seams. I also have to go back over some that I did quickly in order to attach the main components for class… this is so much work! But… that’s what I do to myself on a regular basis. My ideas grow and expand as I start to work on a project, making it much harder on myself. But, honestly, I can’t do it any other way.

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Culling is a never ending chore for me. As I am constantly downsizing my accommodations, I need to lessen the amount of things I keep. I currently have approximately 126 square feet of living/storage space. That is it. I don’t store things anywhere but in my room. So it is important to keep it all under control, and tidy! Everything has to be neat and put away or it gets me stressed.  If I am working on something, my work table will be covered with bits, but that is the only spot where I will leave things.

I need to go through my clothes again. I really reduced what I had when I moved into this complex in the Fall, but since then there are more items that I HAVEN’T worn than I have worn. So, time to cull the clothing again.

I’ve also got a surplus of art supplies that I think I will try to sell.  A classmate has had success selling off her excess and recommended a platform, so that is something I might go at this weekend.

Pride & Prejudice wrapped up on the 15th – it was a really well done show, full of talent. It was a pleasure to work with the cast and crew at Oshawa Little Theatre. I really had fun working on the hair styles of 1813!

I spent a day completely rebuilding my website from the ground (or template) up. I’m quite happy with it. I had been given a critique of my art and social media/internet presence as part of a workshop I took back in January and some excellent points had been made. So I tackled the website as it was a relatively simple, if time consuming, fix for me. Still tweaking it as I go but I think it is looking pretty good – check it out and send along any feedback to me via the contact page! Shannon Fennell Art is the link.

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Only two more months of college this term and then year two of my Fine Art program will be complete. One more year here to finish the three-year diploma, then I will be moving on to another school to complete a degree. The college has articulation agreements with many institutions so I have lots of options – my plan is to complete the degree abroad as the adventure of living in another country is extremely appealing!

 


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And just like that, January is over.

Tomorrow it is February.

Time sure flies when you’re having fun… or, let’s face it, just getting old. Wish I could go back to the time when waiting for something to happen took forever – like a kid waiting for Christmas.

It’s been a fairly hectic month for me. New semester started, back to the part-time job, rehearsals for Pride & Prejudice which I am doing the hair and make-up for, took an art/business workshop last Saturday, lots of medical appointments, participated in a monthly art challenge and have issues with my residence.

The show opened last night at the Oshawa Little Theatre. Really well done! Pride & Prejudice runs until February 15th. They had some fantastic photos from the other night from the photographer.

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Well into art projects now – first painting assignment is going well. I meant to take some work in progress photos yesterday but completely forgot. And just finished my first Fabrication project for the semester – a wooden box. I chose to go small (no surprise there).

Here is my tiny box. It’s only 1.5 inches square. It is made from a solid block of pine. I hand carved it… used a drill to hollow out most of the bottom, but was finished by hand. Then I used pyrography/wood burning. That was my first time using a wood burning tool and I loved it! I used a diluted cherry stain, then lined it with gold leaf. It is sealed with a matte finish. And, thankfully the sealer is encasing the campfire smell.

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I wanted to decorate it with some mystical symbols – I decided astrology symbols would work so I used four of my family signs – Pisces, Virgo, Cancer and Leo. They looked suitably arcane. Then did some decorative patterning on the lid and the sides.

I’m putting a tiny petrified dragon heart (it is really a small polished stone that looks like an anatomically correct heart) and a talon (from a large bird I think) in it… Because a small dragon was trapped in this box and all the burning is from them trying to escape, but an evil wizard put a spell on the box so the dragon died in there and all that is left is their hardened heart and one talon. Everything needs a back story… right?

The next project for Fabrication is an Assemblage. I’m going to be doing something with fabrics, needlework, fibre, etc. Talked it over with the instructor and he’s quite enthusiastic about it.

I sold one of my art challenge works – the little Sharpie cross-stitch Corgi got customized with a shark fin and got sent off to his new home.

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In the art challenge (I posted some things in the previous blog post already) I was having fun painting with Sharpies and alcohol. I’m on a sunset kick right now. Here are a series of mini paintings from the challenge – all are on 2 x 2 inch canvas boards.

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I completed all 31 days of the challenge too! I think this is only the second or third one that I managed to get through to the finish. Yay me!

Also decorated this little trinket box with Sharpies and Copic markers – just for fun.

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I took a workshop on Saturday with Tim Packer on “Key Concepts to Being a Successful Artist.” Really enjoyed it and got lots out of it. Basically… practise every day until you are producing great work, find your voice, love the process, love what you are producing and other people love the work and buy it. He gave us plenty of information and ways to do all of that. Now I need to apply it and work my ass off.

I’ll be talking with him tomorrow – getting a critique on my work and his feedback on what I need to work on to get where I want to go. I have not settled on a medium or technique – so it is a challenge to focus on the constant improvement of one particular style. I love watercolour (one of my favourites below) but also enjoy so many other things. I am looking forward to the critique.

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I was supposed to be having surgery on my left hand back on January 13th. I was in the operating room, on the table, with my hand stretched out on another table. When the surgeon came in I told him it had not been acting up since I had seen him months ago.  He examined it and said I didn’t need the surgery! I might still at some point, but it was great to not have it done!

I will be moving to another unit in the complex. I get the key on Sunday. Probably will take me a week to get it all done. It is in the building across the courtyard – I look out my window at it. Same floor plan, same room as I am in now. There is a problem with the space (not the roommates) and there is not an easy fix so they offered me another unit. So I took it. Just had to wait for them to do the cleaning and prep for a move-in. The room is identical and furnished, so the plan is to carry over things systematically and put them in the same place, so not having to pack. I’ve made my usual lists. Address change is just the unit number.

Check me out on Instagram as I post my art and other creations there much more regularly! Here’s the link shannonfennellartist