Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


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Cor blimey, I’m in England!

First chance to post here. Taking a day to chill and just rest finally. Just me and the dog in the house today.

Last Thursday (Aug 26th) I left Canada, and headed off to the airport to fly to the UK. It was a long term (6 year) plan which had been delayed along the way due to life events. I decided I wasn’t going to delay it any longer! I figured trying to wait the Pandemic out was going to take longer than I wanted to wait.

I had to take a flight with one layover due to changing my departure date and not being able to get the direct flight for the date I wanted to leave. That made the trip a lot longer – 11.5 vs 6.5 hours! And to top that off, we had an over two hour delay in Montreal! The agent announced the delay and told us it was because the plane had been upgraded and the assigned crew was not qualified on the new equipment, so they had to call up a crew and fly them there from Toronto! So the flight ended up being close to 14 hours. Add in the early arrival at the airport, and the queues at Heathrow, the trip took 18.5 or so hours in total to exit the airport on arrival.

I was able to upgrade to Business Class – they had a “sale” on the upgrade. I was happy to pay to be further away from people who were removing their masks to eat and drink! I was triple masked from the time I left home until I was in the parking lot at Heathrow, did NOT remove it at all. So no eating OR drinking until I guzzled a 1500ml bottle of water once we got to the car. I managed to get around 4 hours of sleep on the flight which was great, I felt like I’d had a night’s sleep and was functioning normally. Even woke up the next morning at my normal time of 5 a.m. (in local time!)

I am shocked by the lack of masks over here. No wonder the UK numbers of new cases is skyrocketing. Makes me very nervous. I will, of course, continue to wear masks when I go out anywhere. Which hopefully will be next week!

I’m in quarantine as I flew the Thursday before they announced Canada was moved to the Green List as of Monday, August 30th. So annoyed! I’m at home for 10 days, and have to do a test on Day 2 and Day 8. I haven’t received my results for my Day 2 test yet, and tomorrow is my Day 8. Which I’m a little concerned about. Had to be mailed and my day 2 was a Sunday, and the Monday was a Bank Holiday here… so I’m assuming it was delayed. I can’t leave the house so it was dropped off to be mailed by someone else.

I’m still working my way through all the notifications and address changes – the less important ones, got the important ones done before I left. Have forms that I need to submit to both the Canadian government and financial institutions regarding my residency for tax purposes.

I don’t have a long term plan for this… I’m planning to go where the wind and my whims take me. So more school, work, adventure, moves… who knows, really. It is all going to depend on what is possible to do in this new reality the world is in.

I’m the one in the mask(s)… Anne just caught me in arrivals at Heathrow.


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Pretty sure THIS is my last post from Canada!

I know I said three posts ago that that one was probably my last post from Canada… but it wasn’t. I’m organized, lists made, appointments booked, etc. so to “relax” I write posts.

But I only have three more sleeps until I leave now! So I am pretty sure that this will, for real, be my last post until I am in the UK.

My room is VERY bare – I’ve sold all my personal furnishings and taken at least a dozen loads to donate to the thrift store (by bus) over the last two months. My room is furnished so I am not sitting on the floor!

Tomorrow I go for my PCR test (required 72 hours prior to arrival in the UK). That is making me nervous. I’ve been taking strict precautions, but if I happen to test positive what the hell am I going to do? My lease is up this Friday, they have already rented it for September. Where would I go to wait out a quarantine and further tests? The cost of staying in a hotel for two weeks… NOT in my budget, but that would be the only alternative. Changing the flight is not an issue thankfully and my entry visa is good for 90 days, but…. that is stressing me.

Other than that, I pretty confident everything is under control. I’ve got my spreadsheet of things to do – I’m holding off until I get my test results to do the official address changes. As most, if not all, can be done online, that isn’t a big problem. Most things I get online so getting snail mail isn’t really an issue, and I’ve made arrangements with a roommate in case something does show up in the short term.

I changed my cellphone plan… I’m rather annoyed as it is LESS than my current plan! But, if the phone activates there is a daily roaming fee (only IF the phone pings a tower) that is in effect for 24 hours. So I’ll just plan to do anything I need to use that phone for all on the same day, or connect to the wifi.

I’m packed. But went through my luggage, again, today and probably will again on Wednesday. I am worried about weight – need to make sure I am not over. I don’t know how accurate the scale is, so need to allow a little wiggle room. I weighed everything again, and it all looks good – as long as the scale is right! Also, my carry-on is 25lbs and I haven’t got everything in it! My back pack is over 12lbs. So… all my worldly goods weigh under 200lbs. Does that seem sad to you?

The Big Three… two under 50lbs (barely!) and one over.
The blue things will be in the black things when I’ve finished putting things in them.

For me culling and sorting is a process. I start off with a list of things I really want to keep, then as I start actually sorting to pack, I remove things. I am now at the stage where everything DOES fit in my luggage HOWEVER, the weight… that is a real concern. So now I am taking out things that I do not need, I would like to keep, BUT they are not necessary and don’t actually serve a purpose, so they will go to the thrift store.

How I look at it now is that if my goal is to travel for most of the rest of my life, what is the point of physical objects that are purely decorative or sentimental? Particularly if they don’t mean anything to anyone but me? Why carry them around? Little things that can fit in a pocket are one thing, small furnishings or heavy art objects are really not required. I will take photos or scan things that can be, and that is good for the memory trips if I want to reminisce.

My last run to the thrift store will be Wednesday morning. At that point this room will be like a jail cell, with luggage. Then cleaning and sorting out things for the dumpster. Up very early Thursday to strip the bed, get rid of the mattress pad, eat breakfast, toss left over food, take out all my trash, sort the cleaning supplies, etc. My ride is picking me up at 9:30 am.

It feels like this is happening so fast… but I’ve been planning it since 2015 really, with hiccups along the way, but… FINALLY!!!


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An Artist’s Quandary

Tell me… do you keep ALL your sketchbooks?

I mean, every single one you’ve ever used? Or just the ones with good stuff or important things you want to follow-up on?

It seems to be a accepted thing that we SHOULD keep them, but how realistic is that?

If you’ve kept yours, do you actually use or refer to them? How are they of value to you 10, 20, 50 years on?

Historically I was keeping most of mine, just because I hated throwing out anything I spent time on – it wasn’t an issue to carry them when we moved (considering my family had 19 bookcases full of books and collectibles, a couple more boxes made no difference!) Most of them weren’t even full. I had some going back to grade school. And lots of random bits of paper with doodles on them that I saved as I thought they were particularly good.

But I had to cull substantially when I sold my house and downsized in 2017. I just kept the pages/drawings that I thought were either good or an idea I wanted to keep. It was sometimes hard, but a lot of what is in a sketchbook was just filler that served no purpose other than to kill time or practise.

I also have a paper fetish so buy new ones just because they are on sale, or I want to try a different paper finish or weight or size. That’s not even all of it on that shelf, the bigger pads are stored elsewhere. This was early this year – that’s all gone, except for a small selection of my preferred sizes that I was able to fit into my luggage.

Bottom shelf, all brand new – there are 37 different items there!

Now, because I am moving to another country with as few things as I possibly can, I’ve gone through everything and scanned work that I want to keep a record of and some process/planning sketches from finished projects and trashed the originals.

Planning sketches for a project 2019

At least with modern technology I can scan or photograph anything I want to – which is making the whole process of destroying my “babies” tolerable even if I still feel bad about it.

It was hard but, sigh, I can’t carry a ton of stuff around that NEVER gets referred to. And really… unless it is a current sketchbook that I am actively working in, it doesn’t get looked at unless I am going through the process of culling.

I don’t think I have EVER actually filled up or used up an entire sketchbook or artist’s pad in my life. I’m close on two currently… one I’m working in and keeping. The other is going to get tossed – I’ve photographed or scanned the parts I want to keep out of it.

These are/were the 2020/21 in use sketchbooks

All this made me wonder… do artists REALLY keep ALL their sketchbooks?


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I’m “normal” now. But don’t worry, I’m still me!

Got the results for my blood letting last week. I’ve been making the rounds of doctors, etc. in preparation for leaving the country – also, my benefit plan from school is good until the end of this month so am getting everything done that I can.

Doctor’s comment: “Everything is excellent!” The results in no way indicate that I was diagnosed with diabetes six years ago. He tested everything and every result was in the normal range!

Of note – my fasting sugars were 4.8 and my A1c was 5.4…. that is NON-DIABETIC.
– For Fasting 3.6 -6.0 is “Normal”
– For A1c under 6.0 is “Non-Diabetic”

I’ve had these numbers since 2016 after going Low Carb for only 4 months. And completely off medication since the beginning of 2019 (after having reduced the dose myself for a year before that) – with no change in my numbers at all. I stopped taking the Metformin without consulting anyone – I was monitoring myself, and the drugs made no difference whether I took them or not at that stage. I just told the doctor I’d stopped about a year after the fact.

So… cut out the sugar and the carbs and things will improve! Diabetes does not have to be progressively debilitating if you change your habits and take away the root cause of your body’s malfunctions which in my case was CARBS. I still wish I had known this information 10 or 20 years earlier as I could have stopped the damages, and lost the weight way earlier in my life, which would have also stopped the wear and tear damage to my joints and back (osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease.)

And the really great thing is that the damage from diabetes can actually heal/improve with time in many cases! My only remaining “issue” is my eyes – unfortunately the diabetic retinopathy was so advanced when it was caught (that was how/when I was diagnosed) it is taking a long time to try to control. But I still consider myself lucky that there are treatments for it – my uncle went blind at the age of 19 – he was a Type 1 diabetic in the late 1960s when there was no treatment.

I was diagnosed as Type 2; but Type 1 also have HUGE benefits with Low Carb – I highly recommend Dr. Richard K. Bernstein’s book – Diabetes Solution – this is what I followed to fix myself and still strictly follow. Most of the information is available online so you don’t even have to buy the book!

At the time of my diagnosis, which was three days before Christmas in 2015, my doctor simply said, “You’re diabetic” handed me a prescription for Metformin and the equipment (which was covered by my insurance as long as it was prescribed – was an excellent plan!) And that was it. No advice or referrals, nothing.

So I had to do my own research, which… given the state of my eyes was rather urgent. I knew carbs were not “good” for my blood sugar control. Looking at the various diabetes associations’ guidelines and diet plans I was completely disgusted. Sugar, carbs, fruits, three meals and three snacks a day – ALL CONTAINING HIGH CARBS AND REFINED SUGAR. I didn’t know a lot, but I knew that made no sense.

At first I tried to find a “plan” that would work. But if I followed a so-called diabetic meal plan my blood sugar did NOT come down. So I started removing carbs and anything with sugar, completely. I tried to keep fruit – but one bite of banana would spike me 10 points. A small slice of apple about 6 points. I tried to keep some so-called “good carbs” like oatmeal and 100% rye bread – ah, nope! Those would spike me around 8-10 points. I was doing a lot of eat it, then test every 20 minutes for a few weeks. Was interesting to see how things work.

Then I came across Dr. Bernstein’s book online and it was an epiphany! I think I heard angels singing. He has all the pertinent chapters freely available online so I was able to download the information and follow it right away. I did a series of blogs about how I got myself organized back in 2017 – You can read them HERE – that links to the first of the five-part series of “Getting Organized for a LCHF Life Style” that I wrote. They are also listed on my Food Stuff page.

Long story short I now am what is considered “normal” for bloodwork and weight range. I am 200lbs lighter than I was at my heaviest. My knees don’t hurt, I can touch and SEE my toes, and I don’t have to ask for seat belt extensions on airplanes anymore.

1998 vs 2017

I do not miss sugar. I don’t use sweeteners. I can bake cookies, breads, cakes and other desserts without either carbs or sweeteners and they are delicious. There are a multitude of options for protein and vegetables out there for low carb. Cheese is WAY more versatile than you think! And you can make awesome gravy just adding heavy cream to your pan juices or to butter and seasonings and reducing it.

I don’t get hungry all the time or have cravings. As I’m not hungry I do Intermittent Fasting (referred to as IF) which just means I eat nothing for 16-18 hours at a time, any food consumed in only done in the other 6-8 hour window. Many times I only have one meal a day (often referred to as OMAD by some people.)

I read labels – which can be challenging with my eyes not being great. I don’t buy much processed food as it is very difficult to find any without added sugars or carb based fillers (like starches such as bread crumbs) and I don’t like additives either. My goal is to be as low carb as I can possibly be. There are a few brands of sausages and cured meats that only contain meat and spices, but you really have to hunt for them.

This is one of the times where being considered NORMAL is just what I wanted and is an excellent thing to be.


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This could be my final post… from Canada

My visa was approved for the UK and my flight is booked for August 22nd, so if I keep to my first of the month posting schedule my September post will be made from Plymouth, England!

If you squint you can see my new home in this photo of Devonport, and the Naval Base which is right behind it.

I might post again sooner… I’ve got a lot of time on my hands for the next three weeks. I’ll be reviewing my moving checklists and doing up new ones: mainly address changes, but also figuring out the phone thing (need to find out what the costs will be to keep the Canadian number active), and cancelling things here. Then a list for when I get there – top three are pick-up my identity/work card, open a bank account and get a local phone.

I donated most (95+%) of my art and craft supplies which cleared out my room substantially. I’ve taken four trolley loads to the thrift store to donate, sold some items to a pawn shop (gold jewelry – I didn’t know you could get that much for random bits of gold,) and sold some things privately. I don’t want to keep packing things around that I never wear so I cleared out things I never use, or won’t use again from drawers and bins. And am trying to sell some items online (which is the most frustrating and aggravating thing I have EVER done!)

I’ve stopped getting rid of or posting anything else for now as I still need to be comfortable in my room for the next three weeks. So my bookcase, shelf, table and chair, lamps, etc. will stay put until the last week when I start to pack for real. I have to hold onto my printer to the last possible minute – I have to print off my 72 hour PCR test results to carry with me, and my test is Friday morning, my flight is Sunday night… they guarantee them within 48 hours. So not sure what I’ll be doing about the printer.

Now I’m just puttering, sorting out things for packing purposes – wrapping fragile things up, sorting the art supplies I am keeping which I reduced to two scrapbook cases (not including paper), going through documents I still need to keep accessible for dealing with in the move.

I had thought I would have to mail/ship some stuff over due to lack of room in my luggage, but I think I am going to have more than enough room. I’ll know more definitely once I start practise packing. This is going to be a lot different than packing for a trip! I always would pack, then spend two weeks removing things because I knew I wouldn’t need them or get around to wearing everything I packed to start with. This time, I have to pack everything!

I will probably end up trying to sell, or donate, one of my carry-on suitcases as I have two that size. If I need to check a third bag, one of them will be used for that. But if I don’t need to have a third checked bag, then I won’t need it at all. I have two “free” checked bags (my two brand new huge suitcases – which were on sale for $109, original price was $450 each which I would never have paid, my god,) the third checked bag I would have to pay $225, so ideally, I hope I won’t need it. I will be working towards NOT needing it.

My new suitcases – biggest I’ve ever had.

Had my last eye treatment with my doctor here a week ago. Little bit of excitement this time with the injection – I could NOT see out of that eye immediately after the shot. Total grey-out like solid frosted glass. She immediately “fixed it” – by ANOTHER needle in the eye to remove some fluid. Instant vision return. Wow. I’ve completely lost count of the number of injections I’ve had over the last five years and this has never happened before, but it was immediately resolved. I see her again in a couple weeks for a consult before I leave, to get a letter and forms from her to give my new specialist in the UK. She checked to see if there was time for me to have another treatment before I left but there isn’t, so I hope I can get on with a new ophthalmologist ASAP once I get over there.

I’m concerned with the increasing number of cases in England, and the fact that they opened up even with numbers climbing. But… I really can’t change or delay my plans at this point. My lease is up here August 27, I’m off my school health insurance as of August 31, the move has been planned/delayed since 2015 (first delay was because I was diagnosed T2 diabetic and my eyes needed treatment – couldn’t leave my 100% medical coverage at that point), then I was attending school here. I need to get back on my timeline for getting on with my life. I plan a lot of travelling but that’s going to have to wait until the virus retreats or is being controlled. And getting a degree done has been deferred as I want the full in-person learning experience, no more of this online stuff.

I’ve no intention of giving up masks or hand-sanitizer for quite some time! I’ve ordered more of the antimicrobial TrioMed surgical masks. They started selling boxes of 50 to the public so I ordered a couple. Shipping to the UK would be ridiculous, if they even would ship, so I stocked up. They don’t weigh anything to pack with me, and have a five year shelf life – the pandemic will have retreated by then… right?


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Double vaxed at last

On Tuesday I got my second dose! My original second appointment was for August 6th, but lots of supply has been arriving and the Delta variant is gaining ground so the provincial government started opening it up. As of this past weekend everyone can book. I was automatically notified of my rescheduled appointment by the clinic I had my first one at.

The challenge for many is getting booked through the online system, which isn’t necessarily easy. There are pop-up clinics in hot spots too. On Sunday June 27th the City of Toronto and Scotiabank Centre (where the Maple Leafs and Raptors play at home) held a clinic all-day and vaccinated 26,771 people! A new world record for the most vaccinations in one day. The previous record was 17,001 in Texas in April.

I am glad my appointment was at 8 a.m.; it was already 24C and I was walking there. I don’t like heat. When I got home before 9, it was up to 26C and I was pretty uncomfortable. Thank god for A/C. I really feel horrible for everyone out west getting hit with the record breaking heat wave – the city I moved here from is in the mid-high 40s right now. I am so glad I’m not out there.

It was really busy at the clinic too. They’ve got the drive-thru option going with two lanes, and inside the rink was packed (socially distant, of course). Way busier than when I went for my first shot. But it was moving very fast. I was in line inside by 7:57, shot in the arm by 8:04, then had to wait 30 minutes (historically I’ve had a vaccine reaction), and was home by 8:45.

I remembered to take my little sketch book with me this time, so the 30 minutes went by in a blink while I was sketching some ideas for a commission.

And the only reaction I had was a sore upper arm around the injection site, again, same as the first shot. So that was great.

There are lots more doses in the pipeline so it looks pretty good for most Canadians to be fully vaxed by the end of summer, which is awesome. I will, however, be continuing to wear a mask for quite some time. I like not catching colds and having a reduced allergy response to pollen! Plus, no sunburned nose.

My plans for heading abroad are moving along – visa applied for, flight booked, notice given to landlord, selling/donating/disposing of stuff, bought two huge suitcases and fully vaxed! Now I just have to wait and hold my breath… and hope for no delays.

I finally stopped working on my thesis project “Anthropocene of the Crime.” I got the additional paintings I decided to do finished, and did end up doing just one more to make it a nice round total of 60 threatened species.

Giant Armadillo (listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List) the last painting, species #60

We did our live virtual show and artist’s talk with the Robert McLaughlin Gallery on Zoom on June 14th… still waiting for a link from them to share with everyone, once they have it up on their website. This is the link to the live presentation invite that quotes our professor and the featured art is my project: http://rmg.on.ca/events/emerging-visions-artist-talks/ I’m hoping they’ll post the recording soon.

The project is still up in the studio for now. We are supposed to hear from BMO 1st Art around July 9th on the results of their judging. Then I’ll be taking it down and, if I happened to be the chosen Ontario artist I’ll have to mount it all on a sheet of plywood to be transported to their show, if not (most likely) I’ll just retrieve my paintings and scrap the rest. Some of the paintings have been spoken for and there are some I want to keep.

My project blog, which covers all the species I’ve painted and explains my project, is at https://anthropoceneofthecrime.wordpress.com

The final and complete crime investigation board of “Anthropocene of the Crime”

Received my credentials in the mail yesterday. I have to say I was underwhelmed. I was expecting the college to include some swag at least, not just a cardboard mailer with the diploma inside. I’ve seen what other schools have sent their grads and was expecting there would be something. They didn’t even include what normally is given out at convocation in a normal year.

They saved massively on the budget for convocation for two years now, and they also kept charging us ancillary fees for services and facilities that were NOT available during lockdown – so why couldn’t they have at least provided a decorative folder for the diplomas?

It truly is, literally, just a bloody expensive piece of paper.


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Day 447 (of the Pandemic)

Another month gone and we’re getting close to summer now – just three weeks until it is official.

The last 14+ months have seemed like both the longest AND the shortest of my life. Time has dragged out something awful, but also things have happened and gone by so quickly.

My timeline for moving abroad is now less than three months – 87 days precisely. That is the date my lease here is up, so that is the date I’ve been aiming for as a departure date. However, now that it has been announced by the Provincial government that our second vaccinations are being moved up due to lots of supply, I may be able to go sooner! My current appointment is August 6th, but if I can get one in July I could leave at the beginning of August instead of the end.

There are a lot of things that have to be done in a specific order, and then all the rest of the details that one has to take care of when moving, and moving internationally takes it to a more intense level.

I’ve continued to paint more threatened species to add into my thesis project. I ended up installing my display in our studio on campus and finished it for photographs on the 13th of May. After that I decided to keep painting. I’m enjoying the process and it is keeping me occupied going over to the studio to work on them.

This is my thesis project, which I call “Anthropocene of the Crime.” In this there are 43 paintings of 45 different species that are under threat. Along with information, articles and papers on the threats to the species’ survival, suspects, and lots of string.

I have completed another eight paintings, and have six more in progress, that I am going to add into this before we do our “Live Virtual Show & Artists’ Talk” for the Robert McLaughlin Gallery on June 14th. Most are smaller – ten are 3×4 inches, with four 5×7 inches – and will fit in where there are openings in the existing layout. With those included there will be a total of 57 paintings of 59 different species… I feel like I need to do one more to make it an even 60.

When I was mounting it and putting in the map pins, I suddenly realized that I had somehow missed including any South American species! Oops. So I did three the next day to add in before photographing, and I’ve also added another species in the batch I’m currently painting.

I shot a video explaining the project and what is on the crime investigation board in detail and posted it to YouTube. Here’s the link Antropocene of the Crime – it is just under nine minutes. I wasn’t sure how it would work, as I was holding my camera and talking without planning a script, but it turned out well enough that I’m willing to share it.

I am working on a dedicated blog to accompany my project – as we aren’t having a public display it loses impact completely. In the blog I will have each painting posted with information about the species on their own page, with links and other information. It actually will provide a lot more in-depth detail than just examining the physical display in person, and show off each painting individually. There are a year’s worth of paintings in this project!

The blog is called “Anthropocene of the Crime” (of course) and once I’ve got the last batch of paintings finished and the photos added to the blog, it will be ready to go live. It will be available no later than June 14th when we do our virtual show, but I’ll put it up as soon as I’ve got it ready.

The current batch I’m working on. The eight on the left side are finished, and the rest tomorrow maybe.

I am planning to create note card sets with all the paintings and possibly prints and other items. So I’ve scanned them all as I’ve been finishing them. That’s a summer project, along with a low carb cookbook/e-book a friend is insisting I put together. I scanned all my recipes and once I’m done with this whole thesis project, I’ll start working on that.


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Time for another Low Carb Cookie recipe!

This time I think I’ve figured out how to get them to NOT crumble (but I’m not sure exactly what it is that actually worked!) I haven’t stored them yet, but so far so good. And they are YUMMY. They have a texture that reminds me of a Digestive biscuit and even sort of taste like I remember them tasting (it has been awhile though, so my memory might be wrong.)

*UPDATE* They’ve been stored in an airtight container all week and still have the great snap to them, stayed firm and are not the slightest bit crumbly. I am so happy and excited about that!

There are no sweeteners or gluten in this recipe so these cookies will be good for Keto, Low Carb and Diabetic diets/eating styles.

HAZELNUT & ALMOND COOKIES

I got 30 cookies out of this recipe, of roughly 1×2 inches each. Your results may vary.

325F for 12-15 minutes (until golden brown around the edges.)

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup of softened butter

1 large egg (room temperature preferred so the butter doesn’t seize up when you add it)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract (you can reduce this to half if you aren’t a fan of in-your-face vanilla flavour, or use almond extract, etc.) Use what you have, I always use pure as I fine the fake has an after taste.

1 cup of hazelnut flour/ground hazelnuts (or whatever they call it in your neck of the woods)

3/4 cup of almond flour/ground almonds (see above)

1 tsp of baking powder.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cream the butter in a medium bowl until until smooth. If you prefer you can use an electric mixer, but this mixes up easily by hand. I am all about not having a ton of stuff to wash after.
  2. Add the vanilla and beat until incorporated into the butter.
  3. Add the egg and beat until it is incorporated completely. You can beat the egg and vanilla together before adding if you prefer; but I just toss it in and beat the crap out of it in the bowl.
  4. Add in the dry ingredients – I added it in 1/3 cup at a time (that is the only size of measuring cup I seem to have! LOL) and mixed it in completely before adding more. I also sifted the baking powder, lumps are hard to get rid off if they get in there!
  5. Once all the dry ingredients are completely mixed in and the dough is pretty smooth looking, turn it all out onto a sheet of baking paper or plastic wrap, roll up in a log, wrap it, and put in the fridge for around half an hour, you just want it to firm up enough to cut uniformly, but not be hard. My log was around 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter, because that was what my parchment paper width allowed for. Adjust to suit yourself.
  6. Turn on your oven to preheat while the dough is in the fridge.
  7. Get the dough out and slice into 1/4″ slices (that’s something like 6-7 mm, I just checked) and put on a parchment covered cookie sheet. They can be pretty close together as they do not rise much. Mine are “squished” as the dough was still fairly soft, but did cut and hold the slice shape. This has no effect on the the taste or results so who cares if they aren’t round?
  8. Put in your preheated 325F oven on the centre rack for 12-15 minutes. Check at 12 minutes to see if they are nicely browning around the edges, if not, give it a couple more minutes. I like my nuts well toasted… so I want to see some colour on those cookies!

Check out my other food posts on my FOOD STUFF page.

I think I may try them with cheese – should be good! Nuts and cheese go great together – maybe some Philly or a nice Brie. Would probably be great drizzled or dipped in chocolate too! I will have to check.

*UPDATE* They were very good with the cheese!

*SECOND UPDATE* These really are great! They held their “snap” and stayed crisp to the bite for most of the week (i.e. how long it took me to eat them) stored in an airtight container in the cupboard


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Day 416 (of the Pandemic)

And so it continues. We are back in a hard lockdown here because of record numbers of cases with the third wave of Covid, full ICUs, younger people dying very quickly from the variants… and a slow vaccination rollout.

I was able to get my first Pfizer vaccine on April 16 – I was really emotional about it. I had to wait 30 minutes after it and while I was sitting there I starting crying. Combination of relief and letting go of some of the fear I think. Also was the biggest group of people I’d seen in over a year.

School finished on April 16th – my three-year Diploma is complete. I am still working on my Thesis project in anticipation of our grad show, however, that may not be happening at the gallery – we don’t know yet. The lockdowns have caused the public galleries all sorts of issues so we don’t really know what will be happening. Our prof has called an online meeting with everyone for Monday. I still need to get mine assembled and photographed in the next week or so to submit to the BMO 1st Art! Competition.

Very happy with my marks again. This semester I received 100%, 100%, 99%, 97% and 93%. The 93% was 3D Printing which stressed me out a lot, so I am very pleased and relieved about that. Another 5.0 GPA – so for four of my seven semesters I had a 5.0, that makes my average GPA 4.98.

The two lowest grades I had were in my first year: 86% in Photography and 87% in Digital Drawing. I did not know any of the programs that people were using for Digital Drawing as I’d never done any (had zero interest in it and that has not changed.) I was pretty lost and, as we were told to “use what you know,” I ended up using the Windows photo editor, Paint, Word and Excel. It wasn’t fun but I managed to do the projects, but I wasn’t happy with any of them.

Photography was challenging due to my sight and hand problems – I can’t see the manual camera controls without my prescription and even then it is still difficult; and I can’t see the subject with my glasses on. I also can’t hold the camera and manipulate controls at the same time as I have grip problems. Was so frustrating. I would take 400-600 photos for each assignment and wouldn’t know if I had anything useable until I got them on the computer. I would just randomly change settings without knowing what they were until I could check the metadata and hope I’d used the right ones! By fluke I nailed a couple of the assignments and got really high marks, which made up for the duds. LOL Very frustrating as I can take pretty good photos… on AUTO SETTING!

When our final grades posted I copied and sent my transcript off to the schools that I have conditional offers from for finishing my degree. IT/Sligo, the Irish school, immediately sent a new unconditional offer letter.

With the state of the pandemic I am waiting to make a decision on my offers – I do not want to continue with online learning. While I did well, I did not enjoy it, nor do I feel I learned as much as I could have with in-person instruction and the interaction with other students. As a international student the tuition and fees will be very high (for instance, at my current school they are six times more than domestic students pay.) I want the in-person, hands-on, social interaction aspect to be there; it is a huge expense and I want the most I can get out of it. I will leave it as late as I can to make that decision, and hope that if I do decide to go that I can still find private living arrangements! If not, I will defer for a year.

It seems that most schools are anticipating a “blended” delivery model – some in-person and some remote. But things are in such a state of flux. Part of the issue is that the 18-24 age groups are not being targeted for vaccination in most places yet. Seems that the schools are looking at the number of people vaccinated on campus as the marker for how much they can open back-up.

I’ve got extensive lists of things I need to do preparing to move overseas, but there is an order that they have to be done in and getting the process going involves making the decision about which school’s offer to accept or defer for a year. I’ve got just over a month before processes have to start – visa applications, finding accommodations, making deposits… some things can be on pretty short notice (like booking flights… right now super easy) but others it can be a couple of months.

Here are some of the 41 paintings of 43 threatened species that are part of my final Thesis project. This part of the work is done, and now I start on the actual physical construction and assembly.

I’m really pleased with how these have all turned out. Of course I have my favourites, and there are one or two that I may actually not use in the final display as they didn’t translate as I had hoped. But I am happy with this body of work.


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Sesame Cookies – Low Carb

It has been almost a year (11 months!) since I shared one of my recipes. I was in a baking mood this morning so I made a chocolate cake and cookies as I was completely out of “treats” in the freezer.

This recipe is, as is usual with me, based very loosely on one I found online. I was looking for low carb or keto cookies. I found a vegan chocolate chip keto recipe – but I’m not vegan and don’t use sweeteners so I just used it as a starting point so I knew measurements and proportions.

Full disclosure… my first batch wasn’t optimal. I added in some almond flour – which was a mistake. I ate them… but the texture was off. I still have that niggling doubt in the back of my brain that you can’t bake with just nut butters! I know better, but… I won’t do that again.

Low CarB Unsweetened Sesame Cookies

350F/12-15 minutes – makes 12-16 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup of Tahini (sesame paste/butter) – you could use cashew or almond butter too

1 large egg

2 tbsp of sesame seeds (raw or toasted – this is totally optional!)

1/2 tsp of pure vanilla (I like pure, use what you use)

1/4 tsp of baking soda

1/8 tsp of salt

Directions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl combine all of the ingredients and mix well. I usually start with the seeds and dry ingredients and stir to make sure the baking soda hasn’t any lumps, then add the rest and mix vigorously by hand. You could use a mixer – but this does not need it, it blends together very easily and quickly. Note that once the egg goes in, particularly if it is cold, the batter starts to clump up quickly.
  2. Stick the bowl in the fridge for around 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350F.
  4. Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment, and get the dough out of the fridge.
  5. Shape the dough into balls of approximately 1″ (2.5 cm), flatten in your hand and place on the cookie sheet. Note that they do not rise much so you don’t have to worry about spacing them out. Basically, treat them like old fashioned peanut butter cookies!
  6. Put on the centre rack in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them. It is hard to tell when they are starting to brown as they are brown! I find 12 minutes is a good time to pull the tray out and stare intently at them to see if there is any sign of darkening at the base. You do not want to over-bake. These are a dry cookie and over-baking is bad.
  7. DON’T TOUCH THE COOKIES! When the are hot they crumble!
  8. Once you take them out, let them sit for at least 10 minutes, then carefully remove to a cooling rack or, as I do, set on a paper towel to completely cool.
  9. Once cool they will stay together and you can store in an airtight container. I put mine in the fridge to keep, but they will be fine on the counter for a week or so – if they last that long. They will also freeze for ages.

Options

  • Once I rolled the dough balls in sesame seeds before baking (as in the photo below). I liked them that way BUT the seeds fell off all over the place. The lack of sugar means there is no “glue” to hold things like that on.
  • Another time I just pressed the bottom of the ball in the seeds, I liked that as they toasted on the bottom, but, again, a lot were falling off. Depends how worried you are about random sesame seeds dropping all over. That is why I now put some directly into the dough!
  • You can add things to this dough – high cacao content chocolate chips, other nuts, etc. I plan to do that… I want to use pecans, but didn’t have any on hand.
These were rolled in sesame seeds before baking. The other photos have the seeds in the dough.

This is a dry cookie, but good. Don’t try to make them bigger as I am pretty sure they will crumble when you bite them! This size holds together to be eaten without a mess! (p.s. this is a small cookie sheet!)

Today’s batch cooling before I took them off the tray. You can see how hard it is to tell if they are done in this shot.

If you like sesame you should like these. The lack of sweetness doesn’t register with me, but if you must use a sugar replacement 1/2 cup of a granulated version will work to make them a sweet cookie.

I hope you like them as much as I do. I know some people spit out stuff I like as there is no sugar, but think of them as a fat cracker and eat them with some cheese!