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When Tanya Northcott goes on vacation to Newfoundland and Labrador, so does her camera. Really, it’s an adventure for her camera, which doesn’t see much action back home in Ottawa, Ontario.

“My camera is not really used anywhere else but when I’m in Newfoundland,” Tanya admits. “When I’m in Ottawa it just sits on the shelf. I’m working on changing this, as there are many beautiful places in and around Ottawa, too, but it just doesn’t inspire me the way Newfoundland does.”

Tanya was born on the mainland and was introduced to Newfoundland and Labrador by her adoptive parents, who raised her there.

“I’m a descendant of Ojibway ancestry. My birth family once lived on the Wabigoon Lake Reserve, which is South of Dryden, Ontario. I was adopted by a wonderful Newfoundland couple who were living in Thunder Bay at the time, but after living there for a few years they decided to move back to Newfoundland and that’s where I grew up,” she explains. “I’m very happy to have grown up in Newfoundland; it’s a beautiful place with very friendly people.”

Her first experience with photography was during a vacation to the southern United States and Mexico in the 1980s, when she was gifted an Olympus camera to record her experience. “During this trip I was really inspired by the beauty of the ocean and landscapes,” Tanya says.

These days, Tanya captures scenes using her Nikon D-90 with its AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm lens. She also uses a Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens and an AF-S Nikkor 55-300mm zoom lens. While her camera gear has changed over the years, what she trains it on has not. She is still is irresistibly drawn to the sea and landscapes.

“My favourite subject to shoot would be Newfoundland outports and landscapes simply because it’s so beautiful: the ocean, beaches, cliffs, wildlife, wharfs, boats and colourful houses…the only thing I need to do is to capture good composition and good lighting – the natural beauty of the land does the rest.”

She makes it sound simple, but to get the right composition sometimes means clamouring over cliffs or crawling beneath wharfs. And that great lighting? Well one could be waiting for hours or even days – sometimes even returning in a different season – for the best light. But it’s all worth it, as Tanya and every other photographer will tell you, when you get that perfect shot, that image that inspires you and others every time you see it.

Click here to view a slideshow of images taken by Tanya.
Adventure Canada, an expedition cruise line that’s been bringing passengers to Newfoundland and Labrador for two decades, has perfected many aspects of the cruise experience. One is the wake-up call.

No, it’s not a monotone voice on the other end of the phone gently nudging you from your cabin. At least on the morning this Downhome editor was aboard the Sea Adventurer, it’s the booming voice of the captain over the PA, announcing to passengers that the ship is sailing past a pod of orcas. I’ve never witnessed so many people (myself included) so eager to rise from slumber at 6 a.m. Sure enough, reaching the top deck I could just make out the black dorsal fins in the distance.

Downhome, as well as other media and tourism industry staff, was invited aboard the Sea Adventurer in late June for a special one-night sailing from St. John’s, Newfoundland to St. Pierre, France, in celebration of the company’s 20th year bringing cruise tourists to the province.

Others along for the ride include Newfoundland author Kevin Major, local storyteller Dave Paddon and a host of other famous faces from home. But this isn’t their first (and won’t be their last) Adventure Canada cruise. They are members of the company’s stellar resource team – typically locals with some area of expertise – who sail with cruise passengers to add that extra ounce of local knowledge and charm.

“For our guests it makes it very real. It’s not just the tour guide spiel,” Adventure Canada vice president Cedar Swan, a B.C. native now living in Ontario, tells me as we sail. “They’re actually getting the perspective of somebody that lives there, the pros and cons and the real-life situations, and I think that’s what people have come to know us for is for providing that type of insight.”

Food & fun
Throughout the journey I keep thinking that as we all filed onto the ship we must have looked like hungry souls, for they keep feeding us – and feeding us and feeding us. From hors d’oeuvres aplenty and a gigantic barbecue buffet on deck to a gourmet meal in the dining room, it’s a wonder the ship didn’t sink like a stone with all of us on it. (Still, I would have made off with the entire dessert buffet if I thought I could have done so without creating a scene.)

Canada’s literary queen, Margaret Atwood (another fixture on Adventure Canada’s resource team), is also on this trip. Shortly after we’re out to sea, the three wordsmiths – Paddon, Major and Atwood – go head to head in a game of “Nautical Bluff” in the ship’s lounge, which leaves everyone in stitches.

Late into the evening we’re treated to musical performances from talented members of the ship’s crew (which includes a saxophone-playing horse – seriously, I couldn’t make this up if I tried) as well as Juno-nominated Tom Barlow.

In the morning, as if on cue, humpbacks greet the ship upon our entrance into St. Pierre Harbour (perhaps the 6 a.m. orcas notified them of our impending arrival).

Canada, and especially our little corner of it, is indeed an adventure – one that’s best appreciated from the water. Next time I’m planning a cruise vacation, I might just consider sticking a little closer to home. – Ashley Colombe

Click here to view a slideshow of photos from the cruise.
There’s an interesting symmetry to Gerry Farrell’s life. In his first career, as x-ray technician, he spent his days studying images and looking at the human body in a different way than most of us do. His work inspired a new hobby, photography, which allowed him to capture images of other areas of life, often with a new perspective. And not surprisingly, he preferred to shoot in black and white.

Gerry’s photography passion continued as he transitioned from black and white to colour, and, fairly recently, from film to digital equipment. He also changed careers, graduating from Memorial University with a degree in medicine in 1974. After placements in Grand Bank, N.L. (not far from his hometown of Marystown) and Pictou, N.S., he’s currently a palliative care physician in New Glasgow, N.S.

As a photographer, Gerry says, “I am early morning person and like to take advantage of the ‘golden hour’ of sunlight, either at sunrise or sunset.” The tools he relies on to capture the best images include his Canon 5D Mark 3. “I use a variety of lenses, but my most frequently used is a Canon 24-105 f4 series. I enjoy wide angle shots and use a 17-40 lens for same,” he says.

Something more significant than good equipment that Gerry credits for his quality of photography was a special experience he had a few years ago.

“About five years ago, I spent a week with world-renowned photographer Freeman Patterson, and his inspiration made me a much improved photographer,” he says.

Gerry most enjoys shooting landscapes and, particularly, water features.

“Waterfalls have been an enduring subject for me, and I have visited many of the ones in Nova Scotia, and just returned from a photography adventure in Iceland, where there are waterfalls around every bend,” he says.

He and his wife (also a Newfoundlander, from Brig Bay on the Northern Peninsula) return to the island on a regular basis, where Gerry finds inspiration along the seashore. One of his favourite images was taken during one of those trips home.

“One image of sea urchin shells on the rocks along with seaweed at the Arches on the Northern Peninsula was made in the pouring rain two years ago. I wanted to make an image as a wedding gift for a friend. It included two shells and I titled it ‘Nestled,’” says Gerry.

“I always enjoy going to Newfoundland and Labrador, and walking along the seashore and photographing things I find there. Also, the fog in the early morning light creates a wonderful mood and makes one appreciate all the beauty around us.”

Click here to view a slideshow of photos taken by Gerry.
When we associate texting with our health, the topic is usually bad news: texting while walking/driving causes accidents; constant texting causes carpal tunnel syndrome; texting too much damages personal relationships etc. etc. However, as the following studies show, texting has also proven to have distinct health benefits. In fact, mobile phones have found a place in the modern delivery of health care. It’s called Mobile Health, or mHealth, which covers any use of laptops, cellphones, tablets etc. in collecting patient data, monitoring patient health and delivering services.

Here are four ways that sending and receiving text messages can improve our health:

• An emergency room doctor at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island led a study that offered a violence prevention and intervention program via text messages to young female patients who’d experienced peer violence. The teens overwhelmingly agreed to the follow-up service, believing the supportive messages could help them avoid violent situations in the future, and they indicated they would recommend the service to other young girls at risk. The results of the study were released this past March, and the positive outcome has the hospital looking at ways to expand the service to reach out to at-risk male youths and non-English speaking teens.

• A University of Connecticut study observed positive results in HIV/AIDS patients who connected with their health care providers via text messages. Earlier this year, The Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention (a division of the university) released the results of a study in which patients who received text message “intervention” were found to be more likely to stay on track with their drug regimen and have better health than those who just saw their physicians for follow-ups every few months.

• Persons at risk for type 2 diabetes could benefit from text message reminders about their health, according to a University of Michigan study. Persons who signed up for and received regular messages about eating healthier, drinking more water, exercising etc. were more likely to lose some extra weight and live a healthier lifestyle, according to the study results released in 2013.

• Receiving a simple “how r u” on their phone from a loved one can be a much needed lift to someone who is isolated or feels alone, according to a University of California Berkley study that began in 2010. The project, led by a clinical psychologist, involved sending mental health participants regular messages asking about their moods, suggesting they think about positive things that happened to them and reminding them to take their medications. When the program ended after a number of weeks, several patients reported missing the regular connection. To someone who’s depressed or under stress, a concerned text message is a welcome connection and immediately makes them feel cared for – proving that through texting you really can “reach out and touch someone.”

Feel Good Messages

Downhome asked our facebook friends, “What’s the BEST news you ever received via text message?” Here’s what some said:

“I got asked to be a godmother for the first time.” – Chantal Oake

“Friend’s baby’s arrival.” – Fousty Touton

“‘I’m coming to get you’ – when I was stranded.” – Tracy Perry Stepanuk

“Pics of my grandbaby-to-be.” – Wendy Roenigk-Crane

“I am home safe.” – Deanna Dwyer

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Saturday, October 18, 2014
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From the Archives
By Michelle MacIssac

Our two sons have been visiting a place they call “The Ledge” for two summers now. They say the scenery and swimming in this area along Kippens River near Stephenville is second to none.

Watch Michelle's kids in action at "The Ledge."

So one Sunday in May 2009, about two hours after the boys had left to go to The Ledge, I decided to try to find them. I had a general idea of where the trail was from their descriptions. After walking about two miles along the power lines and seeing their tracks at some points, I made my way across two bogs. When I got to a third bog, I could see no possible way to get past it without either sinking up to my knees in the bog or getting caught up in very dense forest on either side. I tried calling my son’s cell phone several times for guidance, but his phone wasn’t picking up the signal. I gave up and went home.

About two hours later I was grocery shopping when my son Stephen returned my call. I explained what I had tried to do, and he was quite excited at the chance to show me this special place. He suggested I drop my groceries off home and come back up the trail. He said he would meet me and show me how to get to The Ledge – plus he wanted me to bring some food because they were starving! So I unpacked my groceries, made half a dozen peanut butter and jam sandwiches, grabbed a bag of apples and met Stephen at the third bog.

I discovered that the kids did go around the bog, forcing their way through the trees, bull-moose-style. So I did, too – branches scraping and ripping at me until I got to the other side. I figured surely that must be the worst of it. HA!

We hiked another half-mile or so until we came to the top of a huge, extremely steep bank with a raging river down below. I would’ve never thought in a million years any rational person would ever try to climb down that slope. I watched in a mixture of horror and astonishment ¬ even a little pride – as my son Stephen began scrambling down the bank backwards, grabbing onto trees and their roots to support him as he went. Then it was my turn. All the while I was cursing under my breath and saying out loud how insane this was. Then I remembered the kids saying something in the past about rappelling down a rock cliff with a rope.

Sure enough, we came to the rock cliff. The good news was that it was only about 20 feet to the bottom. But to get there, you had to make your way down slippery, slimy slate desperately holding onto a three-quarter-inch nylon rope with knots tied about every foot and a half. Stephen grabbed it, turned around to face the cliff and rappelled down as well as any professional rock climber I’ve ever seen.

Still at the top, I was near wetting my pants with fear, but not wanting to let my 13-year-old think he has one-up on me. I grabbed this God-forsaken rope and made my way down. I discovered in those moments that it’s true what they say – it’s impossible to “soil” your pants when you’re terrified because your butt is clamped so tight you’d be lucky to “do it” a week from then.

I got to the river’s edge, thinking surely God in heaven this was the worst of it. But then I saw the next section. Stephen, his brother Michael and their two buddies were about 50 feet down from my position, scaling the side of a very loose slate-rock bank about two feet above the raging river. The water was only about three or four feet deep, but the water temperature was below freezing. I was savagely ticked off at this point and ready to just sit there and cry.

But Stephen egged me on. “Mom, come on!” he called out. “Just use your feet to guide you along and try to grab the rocks.”

His enthusiasm inspired me again, and I began negotiating my way along the loose rocks. I thought, “My children and their little buddies are obviously carrying the genes of a freaking mountain goat! How can you grab crushed slate rock, let alone get a firm footing on it?”

After a good 30 minutes of slipping, gripping and muttering more foul language under my breath, we finally arrived at The Ledge.

“See Mom – isn’t this worth the trip, isn’t it just beautiful here!” Stephen proclaimed more than asked.

As I looked around at the raw beauty of the place, I could easily see what our sons had fallen in love with. A sense of absolute peace overcame me immediately and I could imagine there wasn’t another human around for millions of miles. The only sound was the soft ripple of the water running over the rocks and rushing through the rapids in some narrow areas, and the intermittent squeal of delight as our youngest child, Michael, leapt into the icy river!

We walked all around, then sat down on a sandy section to eat the snacks I’d brought in my backpack. The high cliffs sheltered us from any wind and the beautiful sun warmed our faces.

The river ran in an S shape between two rocky cliffs about 75 to 80 feet high. There were a few trees and some vegetation growing along the top, but the cliffs looked to be mostly layers of slate rock marked by years of river washings. The water was crystal clear and there were several areas of rapids that the boys had great fun floating down. They would eventually come to a big open pool with a sandy bottom, and because it was so deep and wide it was the perfect swimming hole.

My sons had indeed discovered paradise hidden right in the midst of our tiny community. We even found one stretch of sandy beach overlooking the natural pool, so while the boys played I laid down and soaked up the sun. This truly was heaven on earth.

About then a rather horrifying thought flashed through my mind: I had to eventually, somehow, climb back up what we had just come down. My “organs” clamped up tighter than a clam and my stomach began to roll. I was sure the trip back was surely going to be at least 10 times harder than the trek in.

It couldn’t be avoided if we were ever to be seen again, so with trepidation I followed the sure-footed boys along the slate riverbank. The six-inch path they had dug in the cliff with their feet didn’t seem to like my weight, as every time I tried to find footing in the slate, it would give way. I eventually made it past this cliff section, but not without uttering yet another few foul words under my breath. A trip to church would be in order this Sunday for sure.

I came to the rope section and “slimy cliff of hell” – I believe this section is how The Ledge got its name. Climbing up a knotted rope on a slimy rock bank proved amazingly difficult, only to be following by a death-defying scramble up the rest of the bank, fighting with the roots, stumps and mud. It was about then that the second layer of my lungs tried to come out through my nostrils (I thought I’d lost the first layer somewhere on the jaunt down). It was still another three miles to go across three bogs and through the tangle of forest before I’d be in the comfort of the car.

When my alarm went off at seven the next morning, I automatically swung my legs over the edge of the bed and planted my feet on the floor. My groggy mind didn’t yet register the adventure of yesterday and it’s lingering effects, but my body sure did. My legs immediately buckled in pain and I fell back on the bed, groaning like a bear being butchered. I hurt in places I seriously never knew it was possible to hurt.

So if any of you would ever like to try the ultimate adventure, I invite you to follow my kids some day on one of their trips to The Ledge. I promise you it’s an experience you will not soon forget.

"Back to school" time isn't just about shopping for new supplies and updating wardrobes. It's about starting clean, broadening your horizons and learning lessons that will enrich your life. And who says going back to school is just for kids? This fall, learn a new way to express your creativity by taking a crafty class in something that's completely new to you. Who knows? You might just find a talent you never knew you had.

Stained Glass 101
When he retired a decade ago, Wayne Wells went “back to school” and learned the art of creating stained glass. Nowadays, he operates a home-based business called Stained Glass de-Lights and teaches the craft to others from the basement of his St. John’s home. During four three-hour sessions, Wayne covers all the basic steps, from creating a pattern and cutting the glass to the final shining and waxing – and all the steps in between. For examples of his work and information on upcoming classes, click here. (Plus, see the full story on Stained Glass de-Lights in the September 2013 issue of Downhome.)

Get Hooked!
It’s an art form you probably watched your Newfoundland nan perfect many years ago. Back then, hooking mats was a practical winter pastime – it was something to do during long chilly evenings, and the final product provided a warm buffer against the cold, bare floor. Today, artists are taking up this craft, ensuring those time-worn techniques aren’t lost. You can be a part of preserving this traditional art form by learning to do it yourself – while using a much more modern medium. Placentia Bay, Newfoundland-native Deanne Fitzpatrick operates a rug hooking studio in Amherst, Nova Scotia and offers courses online.

Become a Potter
Ditch those fancy fingernails and learn the ancient art of pottery. At the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador's Clay Studio in downtown St. John’s, students can learn everything from beginner basics to clay marbling and the ancient technique of pinch potting. More experienced potters may choose to take on a new challenge during sculpting classes, or learn to create handles, lids and spouts for their pottery pieces. Click here to find the class that’s right for you.

Learn to Quilt
We all hate to admit it, but a chilly winter is soon coming on – and there’s no better way to stay warm and cozy than wrapped up in a quilt stitched by your own two hands. Piece Maker’s Quilt Shop, located in Conception Bay South, offers quilting classes at all levels: beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Find details here.

Get Crafty!
No matter your craft of choice – it’s very likely that you’ll find the class you’re looking for at the Anna Templeton Centre in downtown St. John’s. Here, you can learn to sew, draw, embroider, knit, paint, make jewellery, crochet – or just about whatever your “art” desires. Click here to find the centre’s complete list of classes.
Coated in chocolate ganache, these mini black forest cakes are the perfect way to cap off a scrumptious Valentine's Day meal with your sweetheart.

(makes five individual cakes)

2/3 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup butter, softened
1¼ cups firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 cup flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 can cherry pie filling (reserve some for garnish)
1 cup whipping cream, prepared
2 ½” round cookie cutter

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup thickened cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 17”x12” jelly roll pan. Melt chocolate chips and water in small saucepan over low heat; cool to room temperature. Combine butter, sugar, eggs, flour and cocoa powder with the cooled chocolate mixture in a large bowl; beat on low until batter is smooth. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for about 10-15 min. or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for about 20 min.

Cut 15 circles from cake using a 2 ½” round cookie cutter. Take care when removing them, as they’re quite delicate. Refrigerate cakes for an hour till they’re firm to handle. Place one cake layer on plate. Top with a tablespoon of cherry pie filling. Spread a layer of whipped cream over filling. Top with another cake layer. Cover with layer of pie filling, then whipped cream, and finish with third cake layer. Repeat steps with remaining circles to make five, three-tier cakes.

Ganache: Combine chocolate and cream in a small saucepan, stir over a low heat until melted. Let stand for 15 min. or until the ganache begins to thicken slightly. Spread top of each cake with ganache and allow it to flow over sides. Top each with the reserved cherries and, if desired, shaved chocolate or whipped cream.
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