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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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When I was a police officer in Toronto some years ago, I got a call on Christmas Eve to visit a resident complaining about illegally parked cars.

When I drove up, there were cars parked illegally, but they weren’t impeding traffic. I spoke to the complainant, who turned out to be a curmudgeonly man who didn't want to give anyone a break on Christmas Eve. He even threatened to report me if I didn’t ticket the vehicles.

So I knocked on a few doors, trying to find owners and ask them to move. I didn't find the owners, but at one house I asked for and got some sheets of yellow card, about the size of parking tickets.

The complainant watched from his front door as I wrote on each “ticket” and placed one under a wiper of each vehicle. He thought I was writing out a citation. What I really wrote was “Merry Christmas.” As I drove away, the complainant was smiling – and so was I.

Here is a poem I wrote during my policing days. I published it a long time ago in Downhome and only recently dug it out from my files. I still enjoy reading it, as it reminds me to be grateful for my blessings. I hope it does the same for you.

Christmas Eve on the Beat

The afternoon’s alive and hopping
Shoppers doing their last minute shopping
The police car finds the curb and stops
Lest someone rob the closing shops
And then the shoppers are all gone
The policeman prowls the streets alone
Christmas lights are everywhere
The sound of church bells haunts the air
He enjoys the moment for its worth
And for a while there’s peace on Earth

Somewhere near a darkened alley
In a house, remodelled, trimmed with holly
Well-dressed couples talk and dine
In the alley, Harry drinks his wine
He’s never lived, but he looks old
He wraps his rags against the cold
It’s been a while since he last ate
He drinks the wine and curses fate
A half carafe, his total worth
The bells are chiming, peace on Earth

Red for stop. Green for go
It’s cold, but still there is no snow
A streetcar grinds along the rail
Somewhere a siren starts to wail
The radio is hushed no more
The policeman answers back, “Ten-four”
Let the festivities begin
Peace on Earth, good will to men

A soon-to-be mother, left alone
To have the baby on her own
Wonders if Jesus, meek and mild
Cares about her unborn child
The policeman comes, God is not dead
The good nurse tucks her into bed
And some time before Christmas morn
Unto the world, a child is born

No one answers the policeman’s knock
So he stands back and kicks the lock
He knew he wouldn’t like this call
A cold chill greets him in the hall
He cannot shake the eerie feeling
He turns and looks up at the ceiling
He sees the rope, the eyes that stare
The lifeless form, the toppled chair
He cuts the rope with expedience
And saves the knot for evidence
But the answer to this life’s lost hope
Won’t be found in the knotted rope
One takes his life, one gives birth
Good will to men, peace on Earth

The stars are gone,
snow clouds descend
It seems the shift will never end
He goes from one who takes his life
To another who beats his wife
He returns a runaway to one place
Her father cries at her disgrace
An old lady on her own
Sits in her dingy room alone
In one house, son hates mother
Children hungry in another
In every call that he goes to
There is so little he can do
The threat of snow that fills the air
Does little for his deep despair
The radio sends him off again
Peace on Earth, good will to men

The shift is over, time to go
Already it’s begun to snow
As he waits for the traffic light
His thoughts are somewhere in the night
Red for stop. Green for go
He drives home slowly through the snow
And pauses just outside the door
Of the haven that he’s waited for
The snowflakes slowly slumber down
In hosts they ghostly dampen sound
The Christmas bells ring out again
Peace on Earth, good will to men.
This has been a great season for iceberg watching in Newfoundland and Labrador, with hundreds of bergs drifting around the coastline. Here is a small taste of the deluge of amazing iceberg photos we've received from our readers.

Seeing Beneath the Surface

"This is one reason why so many people pay big money to visit our province. This shot was taken on a beautiful calm day east of St. Anthony."
Corey Bussey
Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL


Little Boat, Big Berg

This long liner appears tiny next to the giant iceberg it's trying to navigate around in Twillingate, Newfoundland.
Zach Anstey
Twillingate, NL


Berg Watching

Taking in the magnificent sight of an iceberg off Little Harbour, Twillingate.
Zach Anstey
Twillingate, NL


Not Found on the Beach!

"Each iceberg has its own shape and size. This one, photographed between Fort Amherst and Cape Spear, appears to be a floating white conch shell!"
Dave Armstrong
St. John's, NL


The Arizona in Bay Bulls?

"Looking down on this iceberg, it reminded me of the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The ice below the water resembles that of the Arizona, while the two huge towers of ice remind me of the white marble which crossed the sunken Arizona."
Dave Armstrong
St. John's, NL


Berg got the Blues

"It wasn't a very big berg, but it was definitely one of the nicest I've seen in a while. The surface looked so smooth and shiny. The blue icy patches throughout were amazing."
Karie-Lynn Sooley
Photo taken in Cavendish, NL


Rising Above

This castle of an iceberg appears to be floating in the fog.
Vicky Martin
Grates Cove, NL

Are your kids sick of eating the same old ham and cheese sandwiches you dutifully pack in their school lunch boxes day after day? If so, spice things up and try out the following lunch recipes on them. Do your kids have a favourite school lunch recipe? Share it with us, here.

Mini Sandwiches
WhyImage have one sandwich for lunch when you can have several? Using mini sandwich buns, you can put together a few tasty combinations with whatever you have on hand. Here are just four of the tasty combinations you can make:

• Blackforest ham with mayonnaise and sharp cheddar cheese

• Turkey with cranberry sauce

• Bologna with grainy honey Dijon mustard

• Sliced hard-boiled egg with mayonnaise

Tropical Ham Salad
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
1/2 cup canned green beans (no-salt added), drained
1 cup shaved cooked ham, shredded
1/4 cup creamy cucumber salad dressing
6 lettuce leaves, shredded

Put pineapple chunks, green beans and ham in a bowl. Add salad dressing and toss gently; set aside. Divide lettuce equally between two bowls. Top lettuce with ham mixture.

Chicken-Avocado Pita Pockets
2 cups diced cooked chicken
3 avocados, peeled and diced
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 tbsp lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 pitas
Sour cream, to taste
4 leaves lettuce

In a bowl, mix chicken, avocados, tomatoes, onion, lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut pitas in half. Put a leaf of lettuce and some sour cream in each pita pocket. Fill with chicken-avocado mixture.

Pizza Sandwiches
2 English muffins
1/4 cup pizza sauce
8 slices pepperoni
1/3 cup sliced white mushrooms
4 slices mozzarella cheese

Split muffins in half. Spread pizza sauce on inside of halves. Top two halves with pepperoni slices. Cover pepperoni with sliced mushrooms. Add cheese. Top with remaining muffin halves and serve.

Greatest Granola Cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup granola cereal
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats

In a large mixing bowl, place flour, sugar, butter, orange juice, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and egg. With electric mixer at low speed, beat ingredients until well blended, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in granola, raisins and oats. Using a teaspoon, drop dough onto greased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Smooth mounds slightly with fingers. Bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 min., until lightly browned. Remove to rack with spatula and let cool completely.

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