Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Cheesy Dough Balls

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

  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.

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O.M.G. I am still in shock.

I’ve been culling my wardrobe pretty much on a continual basis for the last two years, as I’ve posted about before. Lately I’ve been quite ruthless in getting rid of things in anticipation of selling the house – no point in taking/packing things that don’t fit. So my selection of available items was getting down.

All I had left in the leg covering category were leggings, yoga pants, and two pairs of capri pants. And some weren’t suitable for anything more than the gym or mowing the lawn.

I needed a pair of dress slacks last week.  So, off I went to the Mall. I was wearing size 12 black yoga pants that I’d bought back in early 2016, with high black boots. They weren’t tight.

I popped into the first women’s store I passed.  I was standing there staring at the wall which had lots of black pants on it when one of the staff asked if I needed help.  So I told her I needed black dress pants – slacks not leggings.  Told her I was wearing a 12.  So she grabbed some different pants and let me into a changing room.

Well… I think I tried on around 10 pairs.  Many were more like leggings than slacks. The slacks hung badly me, sagging between the thighs and on the outer thighs.  I don’t have much in the way of a butt or hips so find many women’s styles have too much material in that area to look nice on me.  In casual pants I usually buy men’s, that way there isn’t all that extra material.

At that point three of the staff were looking for pants for me and I was trying on size 10s. One of them then said, “I’m going to get an eight.”

I started laughing and told them, “I used to be a size 28.”

So she got some slacks that were still boxes and not yet out on the floor, in a size eight. And you know what?  They fit perfectly!  No baggy thighs, comfortable, looked nice.

SIZE EIGHT!

As she rang in the sale she said, “Welcome to the single digits!”

And in tops I’m in medium. I actually killed some time at Value Village the other evening while the house was being shown, and bought five tops in medium – all fit well.

It is very strange, STILL, to look at my new clothes and to think, THAT fits me?

Here is the visual – size 28+ jeans, and my new size 8 dress slacks.

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And 2X t-shirt (I don’t have any of the 3 & 4X left) with a t-shirt that fits me now!  It is a child size XL that I accidentally picked up last Fall when I was at Niagara Falls – it was too small then, but not now.

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I’ve also now officially hit the lowest weight ever in my adult life.  I’ve been maintaining steadily in a five-pound range since last December, with a drop of a couple of pounds every few months that lowers the range a bit.

And my blood sugar is staying in the normal range, which was the point of the change to Low Carb, High Fat.

But… wow, SIZE EIGHT!!!!!

 

 


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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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