Shannon Fennell's Blog

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


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2018 is a wrap

Another year has gone by at warp speed. And just like people say, time goes by faster the older you get. It really does.

It was a pretty packed year.

In January I started working towards a degree in Fine Arts. I am attending Durham College in the Fine Arts – Advanced program, and plan to finish my degree in Ireland. The Ontario Colleges have agreement with the Irish Schools where they accept the Ontario Diplomas for full credit, and I can finish an Honours BA in one additional year. That’s the plan I am working on.

I enjoy being a full-time student so much. I’ve always enjoyed school which explains why this will be my sixth – yes, SIXTH – post secondary diploma! I have used all of them in my career paths too. And the Fine Art one will be a great addition to my skill set.

I am working really hard to make sure I do the absolute best I can. I am on the College Honour Roll with a GPA of 4.94. I actually ended up with the exact same GPA in both semesters – in each, I had five A+ and one A. I know there are some that say the grades aren’t important, but they are when applying for scholarships, funding and programs at other schools!

This is some of my work this year – seven were school projects and the other two were not.

2018 review

I was approved for the College’s Student Employment programs and have been working in the Admission office since May. It is a great job as they are completely accommodating to class schedules and activities. In the summer I worked there full-time and during the school year part-time.

In May the family went on a Transatlantic cruise on the Disney Magic, from Miami to Barcelona. It was two weeks long and we were at sea for seven of those days. I was expecting to hit some heavy weather but it was amazingly calm the entire crossing! Even the captain said he’s never had such a calm crossing.

This photo I took from my balcony mid-ocean – like glass. And this was one of the cloudy days! I’ve been on cruises that caught the back end of a hurricane and still enjoyed them as I’m a good sailor as the motion doesn’t bother me at all, but this was amazing.

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I connected with Theatre On The Ridge in Port Perry and helped out with some shows over the summer working on props and wigs. I took on a project of re-purposing a red Chinese Dragon into a blue/green Lake Scugog Monster for one of their productions.

The original colours are in the first photo, then finished painting the parts, and finally the finished costume in use as the Lake Monster.

It was a fun project. I made hands, feet, created a whole mouth full of teeth, more horns for the head, there was copious amounts of flake glitter….

This year I continued to receive treatments on my eyes. Early in the year I had injections in my right eye, and in the Fall in my left eye. I really hope that at some point they will both stabilize so I can stop requiring the injections. I am doing everything I’ve been told needs to happen in order for it to “get better.” At least I don’t need the treatments every month to six weeks now, so I guess it is getting better – but it is taking so long! The vision issues do impact my work at times so it adds a fair amount of stress to my life.

In the make-up area there were workshops taught, face painting jobs, Halloween private clients and theatre. As I am concentrating on full-time school and a part-time job, I made a decision not to push hard to build-up my make-up business in my new location. Quite a change from the last two decades for me where a normal week consisted of 35 hours at the day job and up to 40 working for myself! I am still available, just not to the point of impacting on my school workload.

I’m incorporating my fine art and decorative arts into my business, in addition to the make-up/costume/prop building that I do. I am in the process of re-designing my website and social media to reflect this comprehensively.

It has been a great year overall and I am looking forward to 2019!

I’ve got a trip planned to Africa in May to Volunteer with an organization called VESA – Volunteer Eco Students Abroad. I’ll be visiting South Africa, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Mozambique. I’ve been fundraising for that trip by selling original art greeting cards and have a fundraiser on Facebook which you can check out here.

The second year of my program starts Monday and I’m back to work at the college Wednesday. It’s been a long break and I want to get back at it.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and all the best for the upcoming year!

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Had a lovely vacation

Last month I went on a two-week Transatlantic cruise with my sister and her family on the Disney Magic from Miami to Barcelona. It was a great trip – VERY relaxing and smooth.

I have cruised before – six times – on other cruise lines. My favourite cruise line being Royal Caribbean which I’ve been on four times. While I did enjoy the Disney cruise, I will still rate Royal Caribbean as my preferred cruise line (note that it has been quite a few years since I cruised with Royal Caribbean.) As I am, ahem, “mature” I don’t require all the family and children oriented extras. Even though I don’t need them, they are amazing on the Disney line! If you have kids (and can afford it) I would definitely say take a Disney cruise, but for me, as a single adult, other options suit me better.

The trip was a gift so I actually did not pay for the cruise – I just covered my airfare and all my own expenses. If I had been paying for the cruise – I would probably NOT have gone on Disney. It is expensive. And… we were Concierge level which is VERY expensive. When I look at the cost of that vs. the cost of other cruise lines it just doesn’t seem to be justified.  Not to say being Concierge wasn’t awesome and amazing, BUT for me the cost of that extra service level wasn’t necessary to my enjoyment of a cruise.

My cabin was very comfortable and the room host/steward, Jojo, was always around and making sure things were good. Cabin was a huge upgrade from my first cruise cabin in 1988! The bathroom was actually split into two – on room was the shower with a sink, the other a toilet with a full vanity – nice as the shower didn’t steam up the mirror!

Compare the above to this shot from our 1995 Mediterranean cruise!

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Having the veranda was great.  I was never really impressed with the idea of paying extra for a veranda, however on this trip, I loved it.  Probably would not be such a great extra on a stormy crossing or trip where you were off the ship everyday, but for the long calm days at sea I sat out there often.

And it was great to watch docking and view the ports from too!

It was wonderful having the Concierge staff available (Alina, Blanca and Emanuela were fantastic, as were the rest of the staff) to take care of things like getting tickets, picking up passes, confirming flights, and making sure I had heavy cream available for my coffee in the lounge, etc. I could manage do that myself and save $$$$ on a trip; that would be another whole vacation paid for! And having the private Concierge Lounge was super nice – always had drinks and snacks available, indoor and outdoor deck seating where you could sit and read or in my case, draw and paint.

It was a great trip. Minor hiccups aside.

As this was a Disney cruise they had the characters out and about every day for photos ops and roaming the decks. Not ALL the characters, but the main animated and top princesses. I was EXTREMELY disappointed that there were no superheros… VERY VERY disappointed. However, they were running ALL the latest Marvel and Star Wars movies, along with other Disney owned titles. We even had the premier of Solo, complete with red carpet on board on opening night. Saw Infinity War too.

My nephew and I challenged each other before we boarded in Miami – Who could get the most character photos.  He inferred I would never beat him. Little did he realize just HOW competitive I can be. As we had seven – yes, SEVEN – full days at sea the photo ops were constant. As I had nothing pressing I went from location to location getting photos with all the characters on board… EVERY SINGLE ONE… Multiple times! Mickey and the gang had different outfits for each day or theme, so of course I had to get photos of all. Sometimes I had to ask people in line WHO I was getting the photo with as I wasn’t familiar with the character! I made lots of friends in line – and the lines were never long. There were more adults getting photos than children. I ended up with 207 professional photos taken, along with the ones on my own camera. My nephew… Zilch.

I really have to say that the performers were AMAZING. Truly wonderful at being the characters in all situations. AND had astounding memories too as you could continue conversations started on one day with any princess a couple of days later and they honestly seemed to remember it. I loved Rapunzel and Stitch, in particular. And Chip and Dale were great – on my first photo with them Chip stole my camera and started taking photos/selfies…

Then Stitch did it too…

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I think that may be my favourite photo of the trip! LOL

The food was good. And our waiter Guiseppi was wonderful as he really understood my dietary issues – his wife was also diabetic and followed the same dietary restrictions as I do. So he was anticipating and actually bringing me things that he knew I could eat without being asked. I did, however, get heartily sick of shrimp/prawns and seafood by the last couple of days of the cruise. I found things to be under seasoned in general, AND numerous times I would get excited about an entree option only to find it was prepared in a way I could not eat: cooked in wine (loathe it) or breaded (don’t eat carbs) or rubbed/sauced (don’t eat sugar). The excitement I felt the night we had rack of lamb and it WASN’T breaded was unbelievable!

There were three restaurants for dinner – Lumiere, Rapunzel’s and Animator’s Palate. We rotated to a different one each night with the same serving team going with us. Was okay. They really hype this rotational dining – was always being mentioned by the cruise director.

I do have to say, in all honesty, that I have enjoyed food more on a Royal Caribbean cruise (they did have the Executive Chef of the line on board that trip though… might have made a difference!) How I judge this is that I can still name and remember multiple specific things we ate on that cruise back in 1991! I would be hard pressed to remember anything specific from this latest trip.

Crispy bacon was hard to get – only twice did it actually come in proper crispy form. Sure, I could have sent it back, but I had other things to do.  Also, two mornings my breakfast orders were messed up. Only at dinner, on Disney, do you get the same serving team; breakfast and lunch you get whomever is waiting the section they seat you in.

I always went to the main restaurant to be waited on. Most people ate at the cafeteria style and other places on deck, etc. as they had longer hours and were self-serve. I don’t like that, I want to be waited on and not have to guess what is in the food.

The crossing of the Atlantic was unbelievably calm. Like glass most days. This is rare. We were told by the captain that this has never happened in his career. And experienced “crossing cruisers” also said this has never happened to them either. I was actually looking forward to a little North Atlantic weather (I like it stormy) but, this was really pleasant! The grayest day of the entire trip was Miami when we boarded.  And there were many great sunsets and sunrises!

I took advantage of the professional photographers and had lots of photos taken. What the heck! I was buying the package of “all photos” as narrowing it down to just 10 or 20 was impossible. So I took every opportunity available. Solomon, one the photographers knew my name and cabin number by heart by day two, and even sent me a special thank you card and print of a princess! LOL

That last photo above… well… That was the day after Cadiz. When boarding after the shore excursion I did a face plant on the gangplank… hard hits on knees, both wrists and my head. Had multiple ship security personnel and a ranking officer on me immediately telling me not to move. Long story short… left wrist had a “possible fracture.” I had a dent in my head for a few days and my right knee finally doesn’t hurt to touch anymore.  I went for more x-rays after I got home to confirm whether there was a fracture or not (the ship’s x-ray capability wasn’t high-resolution and they weren’t sure) and it was a bad sprain only thankfully.

Ports of Call were the Azores, Lisbon, Cadiz, Malaga, Ibiza and final stop in Barcelona. Really nice tours – Azores was a bit damp and cloudy but pleasant, weather everywhere else was nice and sunny. I’ll do another post about what I saw and did, including fun  shipboard activities! This one is getting pretty long.

 

 

 

 


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My Moroccan Adventure: Fes

I arrived in Casablanca on March 25th,  late afternoon, and the next morning we headed out to Fes, with some stops along the way which I will cover in another post.

This is the tour map from Insight Vacations – we stopped at all the noted towns and sites. The numbers in the red stars are the overnight stays, and the white circles are photo stops or lunch stops.  We had a few extra stops included.

Tour Map Insight

This map shows the whole country – we covered a lot, but not nearly all of it.

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On the road!  Taken through the bus window from about halfway back! I tried to take photos of signs along the way but it proved difficult – managed two the whole trip.

Road sign Rabat Fes

Something I learned is that Fes with an ‘s’ is the name of the city and the word means pick-axe. Fez with a ‘z’ is a hat – they make them in Morocco but they were made for the Turks.

The evening we arrived in Fes we had a traditional dinner and folklore show at a restaurant in the Medina… we were dropped off and had to walk through narrow alleys to get to the restaurant which was the home of the family who turned it into a restaurant – it is a spectacular building.

These are the musicians who played during the evening. They are sitting in an alcove off the main room – just look at that mosaic work!

Fes restaurant (2)

This is the ceiling. The detail involved in every single fixture is stunning.

Fes restaurant (1)

Everywhere I looked was a feast for the eyes. From the outside you see nothing… just dark dirty alleys… then you walk in.

The entertainment including drummers and a belly dancer (which isn’t a Moroccan tradition, but left by the Turks.)

The next morning we had a local guide to take us to the Royal Palace and the Medina.

The Royal Palace “Dar el Makhzen” is where the King stays when he is in Fes. I think we were told it covers 80 acres. Absolutely spectacular. The decoration is mind-blowing.

After the palace we were taken to the Medina – the old town. We stopped at a look-out to get the whole picture before diving into the tour.

Fes

The walls of the old city and gates are still used.

We arrived fairly early to start our walking tour of the Medina… the garbage crews were still at work. As the “streets” of the Medina are narrow alleys donkeys are used. And they are completely focussed on their jobs! I got knocked out-of-the-way by one little guy intent on getting back on his route after unloading at the truck in the main square! They work in crews of three donkeys and one handler.

Fes - garbage donkeysFes - Garbage collection

Using donkeys is pretty green… although avoiding stepping in donkey poop was a major activity!

The first part of the Medina we toured was residences so no shops. Very narrow and dark.

Then we came out on the main square and went in the opposite side where the shops were. The Medina is home for a lot of people – our guide said “middle class” and they live, work and shop in the Medina.  There are schools, mosques, libraries, the world’s oldest university, butchers, bakers, grocers, candy shops, tailors, convenience stores, shoemakers, tanneries, carpet shops, coppersmiths, weavers, etc. Everything and anything all in these small alleys.

Below is the world’s oldest degree granting university, the University of Al-Karaouine – the guidebooks and the website said it was open to non-Muslims but our guide insisted it wasn’t so we could take photos from the doorway only.

The University of Al-Karaouine originally was founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri, a woman, as a mosque. It developed into one of the leading universities for natural sciences. In 1957 they added mathematics, physics, chemistry and foreign languages.

Fes University of Al-Karaouine

This is a photo of the inside of a home in the Medina – it is an example of the traditional architecture – it is a bookstore with apartments upstairs now.

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And these photos are of different mosques that were in the Medina – such gorgeous tile and metal work!

The architecture in some areas was amazing, and there were restored parts as well – UNESCO is funding restoration.

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Fes Medina 4

The photo below is of a section restored by UNESCO.

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There are cats everywhere. It is the national animal of Morocco we were told. They aren’t pets – just everywhere you go, there they are!  Particularly around the butchers and fishmongers and the sewer grates (must have been rats down there.)

Fes Medina 9

We toured two other Medinas on this tour, in Marrakesh and Essaouira, which had significant differences to Fes.

After the walking tour, which was several hours (I really got a lot of exercise on this trip!) we went back to the hotel to do our own thing for lunch. After lunch we had our optional tour which I will cover in another post!

Took this photo of our bus from my room window – I was on the fifth floor.

Fes From my room