Thursday, 17 March 2016

My Life in Pictures: A Canon Love Story

Before I decided to dive into the world of non-profits and fund development I worked as a journalist. And as any good journalist knows the lifeblood of any story lies not just within the words but the photo that accompanies it.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Not for a journalist. We already wrote the words, to me a picture is worth a thousand emotions.  (I know there are not actually a thousand different emotions, but you know what I am going for here so work with me.)

It is the image and the way it is composed that bring out the feelings of the people in the story and the feelings of the person reading it. 

I am getting pretty good as this photography stuff.
Last month I decided to walk on the wild side and relearn to shoot images off of the green automatic setting. Gasp! I swear even my camera was like "Calm down Jennifer, let's not go too far here."

During this course I started to remember what happens when I take the camera off the automatic setting and let my brain do the work. Then your creativity truly comes alive.

While sitting in photography class I looked at my old Canon Rebel. I ran out and bought this camera when I first started working at the Petawawa Post military base newspaper. It took me two years to pay it off but I was in love with it. That was a decade ago. It is now starting to show wear in the areas where I hold it, and I have lost battery chargers are lens caps more than I can count but we are still going strong. 

I recently took it in to be cleaned inside for the first time. When I picked it up the staff member pointed out that it was really dirty and to not let a decade go by before cleaning it again. Oops. 
I replied " Yeah it was probably filled with sand from Panama, Jamaica, and other beaches as it goes everywhere with me."

I finally took a picture of the moon!!!!!
Then I thought about what my camera has actually seen. From vacations and cruises to tropical places, beaches in Jamaica, historic churches in Panama, wine cellars in Napa, it has seen my own wedding, the day Charlotte was born, her Christmas's, baptism and first day of school. Because of my job it has also captured the sadness of a memorial  service for a fallen soldier, the sense of pride in a promotion ceremony and the sheer joy of families when soldiers walk through the door after being overseas. 

It has captured friends and family that we have loved and we have lost.  It has seen me at my best and some times at my worst. Many people would never think of their camera as any more than a piece of equipment and I mean it is but it is also so much more to me. My Canon has been there for ten years and has documented thousands upon thousands of my life moments without fail.  

It is not the most convenient thing to carry- especially on vacations, it is large and bulky but when my mother ask me if I am actually taking that big camera on our next vacation the answer is always yes.

People often say if these walls could talk, well my camera does. In the form of photos printed in newspapers, hanging on my wall, in my scrapbooks, all stories, emotions and memories captured through the lens. I don't know how long my Canon will survive, it has already outlived most equipment pieces in my life, but for now we are getting ready to embark on the next family vacation and my camera will be on the top of my packing list.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Fireplace Facelift

For those lucky enough to have a working fireplace in their home they know it is often the center of attention when people walk in the room. 

Guarantee someone will comment on it, usually a simple "Oh you have a fireplace," 

If the conversation ends there the person may have been taught that if they can't say anything nice don't say anything at all. 

Fireplace before in all it's green and gold glory
It may be time to step back and really take a look at your fireplace. If your paint colours, furniture and decor have changed several times over the years but you fireplace has not, it may be outdated. 

When it comes to updating decor the fireplace is often left behind. It doesn't have to be. Refacing your fireplace is a mid-level skill job that normally cost between $400 to $1000. Unless you really really need that marble shipped from Italy......

Here is my own Fireplace Facelift
I love my propane fireplace in the hosue we just moved into last year, I did not however, like the green and gold colour scheme going on there. Not only was it a little dated it seemed much too fancy for the rest of the rustic look of my house. 

The other thing I didn't like was the mantel. I felt that the corner fireplace that just ended with a shelf gave me this awkward corner to deal with. I believe the previous owners had a tv up there. 

We carefully chipped off all the old tiles. Be careful not to damage the fireplace, break the glass with a accidental chisel slip, hey it could happen..... Bye bye green tiles!

If you are keeping your mantel remove it carefully  and lay it aside. Reusing it will save you $$$. 

If you are building a new one source out the local building store for remnant pieces- you don't need much and it can save you. You will want to use a nice heavy wood for the project, such as oak. Hubby managed to score me a FREE piece of solid Cherry from a friend who had no use for it.

We framed up a wall to the ceiling and hung 5/8 boards to the front to adhere our stone to. This is less than $100 to finish.

Love my fireplace even more at Christmas time
The stone product we used is available at most hardware stores. It comes in tiles that you install with adhesive. Keep in mind you will need a saw blade that can cut through this type of stone tile. Refer to the experts at the hardware store for help. The tiles cost us approx $300 for 3 boxes.

We then scored some black tiles on the discount table at the hardware store for less than $20 because there wasn't many left of the discontinued tile in stock. No worries! I didn't need very many. Just remember to keep a few in case one gets broken in future. You wouldn't want to have to tear it all out for the sake of one broken tile.

I then stained the mantel a dark espresso brown to complement the grey stonework. We had this stain left over from our bar project. If not pick up a small can of stain for about $6-$10.

So there it is. In all it's glory. Commanding attention as soon as you walk in the room. It is especially beautiful at Christmas time. 

Now when guest come in the stop and say "I love your fireplace!!! Did you guys do that???"

Yes, yes we did! In one full day for less than $500. Have you done your own Fireplace Facelift? How did it turn out?

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Saje; A New Favorite Store?

There is a new store in town and is it unlike anything I have seen here in St. John's before.

You just know Saje is a little different as soon as you walk in, diffusers are filling the air with a slight haze of natural oils, rough wood paneling is everywhere and there are plants and a "living wall" as well.

Saje is a Canadian Company founded in BC. All of the products contain plant-derived essential oils and base ingredients. Pure ingredients straight from nature are environmentally friendly, healthy, and more supportive of the body’s natural breathing, living, and healing functions.

While I am not always conscience of what is in the food I eat or the products I use but I have found myself trying to be a little more aware in the past year or more. I am trying to make better decisions when offered them. That is why I loved walking into Saje and having shelf after shelf of better options laid out for me. I need things to be laid out in front of my face sometimes!

I admit it can be a little overwhelming to walk in there without any prior knowledge of what Saje is and what the products are. So to make it easier for you I am listing my personal 10 must have Saje products.
Jenn's 10 Must Have Saje Products
  1. Peppermint Twist Soap Bar: $5.95
    I love this simple bar of soap in the shower. The peppermint smell perks you up and makes you feel refreshed and it is great for oily skin.
  2. Wellness Wonderland Candle: $19.95 for 100g $29.95 for 200g
    These candles make great gifts, and of course one don't forget yourself. They look nice, smell nice and their story is a great conversation starter. These candles are made with up-cycled frosted glass bottles, that when empty are once again recyclable and the cycle continues. You nose is happy and so is the environment!
  3. B-Gone $14.95
    When it comes to bug repellent I am always wondering about what is in it and should i be putting it on my child. Since she has horrible reactions to bug bites I have to do something. When I say this natural repellent in a spray I was excited to finally have another option.
  4. Owee Magic Aromatherapy Balm $9.95
    Another great kid product, I mean it is called Boo Boo Ointment, how cute is that? This salve is good for minor cuts, scrapes, burns and bruises. Takes my daughters mind right off of the boo boo itself.
  5. Pocket Pharmacy $59.95
    A must have for travelers. This little kit contains 5 therapeutic remedy roll-ons - Peppermint Halo, Stress Release, Pain Release, Immune, and Eater's Digest. My toddler actually ask for eaters digest to be rubbed on her tummy when she has a tummy ache. Much better than her asking for medicine for every little ailment.
  6. Yoga $12.95
    This spray is a lifesaver for me. It has natural antibacterial properties to clean your yoga mats, but for me it does much more. I take boxing classes at a local gym, this spray stays in my bag to spritz the inside of my sweaty gloves to keep them fresh. The girl at teh store said it always works on hockey equipment.
  7. Cellutone Bath & Body Massage Oil: $7.95
    This little oil can be warmed in hot water and rubbed on skin or as I prefer it a teaspoon or two in my bathtub water. It makes my skin s soft and smooth.

  8. Sunset Glow Calming Body Butter 1.4 fl oz $8.95
    This is my go too hand cream to stash in my purse, desk drawer or glove compartment. It feels so soothing and the smell is very nice.

  9.  Quick Study Mental Alertness Mist: $9.95
    A couple of quick sprays in the air above my head and a few deep breaths in and I am ready to take on my day. Quick Study is a mental alertness remedy to naturally enhance your ability to focus and concentrate. I love to spray it over my daughters head when she is not looking before we leave for kindergarten :) This little bottle of spray is also available in roll on for $19.95. My friend uses the roll on when taking university exams. Put a little on your palms and inhale into them.

  10. Konjac Care Bamboo with Charcoal Sponges: $9.95
    Skin care like you've never seen it before. A unique, bamboo charcoal-enriched cleansing sponge that is hard until you put it in water, squeeze out the excess and use it to cleanse and exfoliate your face- let it dry and put it back in it's storage container. How neat is that! Also available in green tea, yam extract and aloe.

Saje is full of amazing products and of course this is just my quick and dirty little list of must haves. There is something for everyone and for whatever ails you. The staff are super helpful. Go check them out!

If you want to check out these products and more online here is there site

    Tuesday, 27 October 2015

    Opening Pandora's "mailbox"

    Less than a week in office and the New Liberal Government has opened Pandora's "mail-box".
    In a statement released on Monday, Canada Post said that "all conversions" planned for November and December 2015, and those scheduled to follow in 2016, will be placed on hold.
    "We will work collaboratively with the Government of Canada to determine the best path forward given the ongoing challenges faced by the Canadian postal system," said the statement.

    Why is this such a controversial move right now? Because when it was first announced last year, it pissed off a lot of people. There were petitions, signs posted everywhere "Save Door-to-Door", even protest, don't forget the failed legal challenge from the City of Hamilton; Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre drilling into a concrete base for the mailboxes with a jackhammer; and homeowners even trying to prevent installation by sitting in front of the installation site.  Slowly people accepted the inevitable. Things calmed down a bit. Well here we go again.

    I should first say that I don't have door-to-door. I haven't in 10 years. Before that I did and growing up in a rural community we drove to the post office to get the mail. So I have lived in all three situations.

    First of all I do understand that for those who are in wheelchairs, have strollers or use walkers I realize that it is a little more difficult to get your mail from a community mail box. I understand the issues that lie with this. I am not being a insensitive person. But assuming that at some point these people do leave their houses it is indeed possible to get your mail along to way to run errands, visit friends or get groceries. Or have a family member get it for you on their way to visit. It is certainly not as easy or convenient but it is possible.

    My main issue with the door-to-door issue is that half the country doesn't have it to begin with.  Rural areas have been using community mailboxes and post offices since the 80's, plus I know especially here in St. John's that any subdivision built since then has used them as well.

    Plus that number has increased now since those that were unlucky enough to have their community box conversion take place before the election will have to continue to use it. Crappy deal for them!

    So why is this such a Pandora's Box issue? Because now Canada Post and the Government has pitted two halves of the country against each other. Just go on to CTV or Global online and read the comments people are leaving. You have those that have never had door-to-door verses those that do. They are telling each other to "suck it up" and complaining that those without are paying taxes and higher postage to subsidize those that do. Some are getting quite rude.

    If Canada stops door-to-door delivery we will be the first in the G7 countries to do so. Big deal. So if the US did it first we would be ok to follow? When the industry has a shift, such as the postal industry in this electronic age has, someone needs to be first to make a change.

    So there you go Justin Trudeau you have stirred up the hornets nest on this one. So I hope when Canada Post considers what to do about the future of mail delivery in this country they consider a solution that somehow treats every one fairly and pays no regard to what the other G7 countries have or have not done. Do what needs to be done whether we like it or not. And do it quick like ripping off a band aid because the longer this stretches out the more animosity that come between us.

    Friday, 25 September 2015

    Hope, Healing and Happy Meals

    When does a clown become a symbol of hope? When does a burger become a method of healing?
    When you walk into a Ronald McDonald House.

    It is probably a given that at some point in our lives we have had a Happy Meal at McDonald's. I know I still eat the nugget one I just order a toy for a girl and pretend I am taking it home to my child when in reality I will eat it myself in the car with no witnesses.

    What makes it so Happy? Is it the joy it gives the child who gets to take home that iconic box? well yes but more so is the joy it provides the children and families that rely on the RMH. For the past decade .10 from each Happy Meal goes towards funding the RMH. And let me tell you there is a lot of those little iconic boxes of joy sold each year.

    On September 17th I sat in McDonalds and watched as a grown man ordered a Big Mac meal (but I bet he really wanted a nugget Happy Meal) and witnessed the look of confusion on his face when his order was given in a Happy Meal box, he shrugged his shoulders and moved on. This happened to the next customer and the next and the next... It was funny to watch the state of confusion but the day itself had a serious message.
    My thank you cards!!!!

    Every meal that day was a Happy Meal because it held a special message to the customers of McDonalds. Each box held one of 17 cards drawn by a family that has stayed at a RMH, in Canada. It wasn't asking for money, it wasn't trying to get you to buy more McDonald's, it simply said thank you.

    If you don't know; Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada works to give sick children what they need most – their families. They provide a place to stay for out of town families who have a seriously ill child getting medical treatment. We are fortunate enough to have a RMH here in St John's Newfoundland since 2012. With 15 bedroom suites it serves more than 500 families a year.

    As a mother I appreciate the level of care and service that is provided by the RMH Because when your child is sick all they want is you and as a parent you want nothing more than to be with them every second of the day. With the RMH they can do just that. It provides a place to stay, to be a family and to let everything be normal for a little while. The staff handle the small things to help you focus on what's important; your child.

    Newfoundland is a province filled with many outport and rural communities. They must travel to St. John's to visit the Janeway Children's Hospital for treatment. Many of them hours away from the homes and loved ones. The RMH here is a vital service.

    Sheldon and Selina Carroll with their thank you cards. 
     Parents Selina & Sheldon Carroll from Labrador have been staying at the St. John's RMH since March when their son Michael was born premature. They are the creators of the card pictured above with the tiny footprint on it- Michael's. This is what Selina had to said her thank you note.

    "Through all our ups and downs on Michael's journey the staff and volunteers here at the RMH have been so supportive and loving. From all the home cooked meals, happy faces and late night chats our stay has been second to none. We have met get friends here that we will have for life, that is a great gift."

    If that doesn't make it a Happy Meal, I don't know what is.

    To learn more about the RMH visit

    Wednesday, 9 September 2015

    A Letter For My Baby On Her First Day of School

    Hi Baby Girl,

    Well this is it, your backpack is ready, your uniform looks great and let's not even talk about how cute that ponytail is on you today.

    As you walk into that classroom today for your first day of school I want you remember a few things.
    This is a new journey, the first of 13 years that will be filled with love, a few tears but mostly laughter. These days will stay with you forever.  To make the most of these vital years I will give some of my wisdom to you, after all I have been in your shoes once before :)
    You didn't even notice me stay a little while longer
    watching you play. I am so proud of you baby girl!

    1. It's ok to be scared, life is full of uncertainties, embrace the feeling and learn how to overcome it, in the end it will all work out.

    2. Make friends, some of these friends will be by your side for the rest of your life, but it may not necessarily be the ones you meet today. So remember to make new ones along the way and always be nice to the new kid. They are scared too and saying hello will change their day.

    3. During your school years someone will be mean to you. I want you to always remember how that felt. Carry a little part of that with you and it will remind you to always treat others with kindness and caring. But the most important part is to always forgive. Forgive those who may be mean to you, It will do you both a world of good. Trust me.

    4. Be yourself, everyone else is taken. I love that quote. Take it and live by it. You walked in that door this morning a truly individual little girl . Please please stay that way. Trends will always come and go but who you are inside will stay with you forever.

    5. Try new things, the next 13 years are all about discovery. Discover new friends, discover new hobbies, discover yourself. This is the best time to branch out, try different club, different classes. Although you may do dance for 10 years you may discover that playing the trumpet awakens a passion inside you. You never know unless you try. I will never be disappointed in your choices to continue or to move on from something. I know you are just trying to find your way.

    6. Own every success but also every failure. Learn from them. These lessons will guide you through life.

    7. Someone will break your heart. I am truly sorry for this. I cannot stop it. But I can promise I understand, I have been there too. I will be there for you and together we will be ok. I also promise to stop your father from hunting him down.

    8. I cannot promise to catch you every time you fall but I will be there to pick you up and dust you off.

    9. Learn to drive a standard. Trust me it is a very proud feeling! Ask you dad to teach you, it will make him so happy. But don't tell him I sent you it will be our little secret.

    10. You will always be my baby. No matter if it is walking in that door this morning for the first time form the time you walk across the stage for the last time and beyond, you will always be my baby.  You cried this morning when I left. Thanks for that. It reminded me that no matter how many times people tell me you are all grown up and that you are a big girl now. I know you a still a little girl at heart and that you need me as much as I need you.

    That's it. Be brave, be confident, be yourself.

    Love Always


    Wednesday, 12 August 2015

    See the Basilica Again for the First Time

    If you live in St. John's or have visited St. John's or have only seen St. John's in pictures chances are you have seen the Basilica. It is hard to miss as one of the most recognized structures in the province standing tall on top of the hill, a beautiful part of the downtown skyline.
    But you have never seen it like this before!

    During the month of August the Basilica Heritage Foundation is holding a special series of escorted tours. "Fleming" is a one-may play based on Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming, the man who was responsible for bringing the Basilica to reality.

    Actor Michael Nolan as Bishop Fleming

    I took the tour myself a week ago, I brought my mother along for the ride as she has only ever saw the church from the outside.  Having actually been inside the church before and attended services I considered myself somewhat an expert over her in this situation. (just don't tell her that ok?)

    "Well here it is folks, I know it doesn't look like much now but if you could just imagine for a minute what it will become...."

    Actor Michael Nolan plays Bishop Fleming and he gives the tour based on different periods throughout the building stages of the church. Nolan does a great job in relaying what must have been a very emotional 14 years for Bishop Fleming, from the time the first cornerstone was laid in 1841 until the church was completed 14 years later.

    It is entertaining to hear someone not just tell you what it was like back then, but to take you with them. To not just tell you what someone did but to show you how they must have felt. 

    Listening to the sheer determination that went into the project it is hard not to feel motivated to take on the World when you leave. (or at least that project you have been putting off for months!) 

    Let's say you wanted to build a big stone structure today, you know because you feel like renovating.... Let's just call and book a crane, some big trucks, a backhoe, cement mixers.....

    Nolan as Fleming describing the
    architectural details inside the Basilica
    Wait, what do you mean I can't have any of that stuff? Then what do we do? It makes me wonder if we could bond together as a community this day an age to complete such a daunting task as Fleming, his workers and the townspeople did back then. ( I certainly don't think they would take too kindly as fish for currency on payday today thought)

    Go see Fleming and you will find out every painstaking detail on how those big massive stone blocks got to where there are. And then tell me you are not motivated enough to go home and tackle a project, any project really!

    Bishop Fleming's determination to see his dream into reality and the hard work and commitment of the townspeople left me awestruck.

     The tour is only $10, considering the cost of anything else slightly entertaining in the city, this is an amazing deal. (And much cheaper than any motivational speaker)

    So please take my advice and take this tour!  (Note part of the tour starts outdoors, so dress for our lovely weather!)

    The tours run August only from Tuesday to Saturday at noon. Visit the website here for more info.