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Guest Post: The 2013 Christmas Gift Guide for the Cook (and Foodie) in Your Life

If you are shopping for a foodie this Christmas (or even if you are not) here is my broad guide to great Christmas gifts for the kitchen.  It’s a series of things that I love that make life in the kitchen better.  If you have any comments on things that I have listed or have things that I have missed, leave them in the comments. – Wendy 

Inexpensive Christmas Gifts & Stocking Stuffers: Under $25

Butter BoatButter boat

This uses evaporative cooling to keep butter at room temperature without spoiling.  There’s a well for water, and then a butter dish that rests on top of it, and slowly wicks water through the ceramic.  The upshot is that as long as you change the water every few days, you can keep butter in the dish for weeks which is awesome considering Saskatchewan’s hot summers.


Cookbook stand

This holds the cookbook up where you can see it and keeps it from having something splashed all over it which if I let Jordon, Mark, or Oliver in the kitchen is very likely to happen.


Ninjabread Cookie CuttersNinjabread Cookie Cutters

Gingerbread was so last year.  Ninjabread cookie cutters make any cookie a lot more fun (and stealthily dangerous) to make and eat. 

There cookie cutters are sure to be a hit all year round.


Silicon Pastry Mat

Silicone’s is both flexible and things won’t stick to it.  It’s ideal for rolling pastry and cookies.  It not only makes things easier on you but it means you can use less flour, resulting in a more delicate and tender product which means everyone wins.


Thoughtful yet Inexpensive Christmas Presents:  $25 to $50

Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich MakerHamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker

Forget the fast food drive-through. With the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker, you can enjoy a hot, homemade breakfast sandwich in under 5 minutes. Simply place the ingredients inside, build the base of your sandwich in the bottom layer, place the egg on the cooking plate and close the lid. Slide the cooking plate out and your sandwich assembles itself. Open the lid and your hot breakfast sandwich is ready to eat. The included recipe book provides a variety of breakfast sandwich options, from the traditional egg, ham and cheese to the unique cheddar, apple, bacon and egg croissant sandwich.


 

CucinaPro Pasta Fresh machineCucinaPro Pasta Fresh machine

Nothing beats a plate of truly fresh pasta. And now it’s easy to roll out your own at home. Whether the craving is for spaghetti or fettuccine, this sturdy machine handles the job with efficiency and style. Made of heavyweight chromed steel, with an attractive wood grip handle, Villaware’s pasta maker looks great on the counter and is easy to use–there’s nothing to plug in as this is the tried-and-true hand-crank variety. The easy-lock adjustable dough-dialer rolls thick or thin pasta, and it comes with spaghetti and fettuccine cutters. Cutters for tagliatelle and angel hair pasta are available separately


Aeropress Coffee PressAeropress Coffee Press

It makes one of the best cups of coffee you’ll ever taste. This innovative uses the ideal water temperature and gentle air pressure brewing to produce coffee and espresso that has rich flavour with lower acidity and without bitterness. It makes 1 to 4 cups of coffee or espresso (enough for 1 or 2 mugs), features a micro filtered for grit free coffee, and takes just 1 minute to make coffee (actual press time takes only 20 seconds).


Belgium Waffle IronBelgium Waffle Iron

Enjoy delicious fluffy Belgian waffles with the Hamilton Beach Belgian Style Flip Waffle Maker. Made with easy to clean non-stick grids to bake the perfect waffle with deep pockets to hold butter and syrup. The indicator lights let you know just when to add the batter and the removable tray and grids make for easy clean-up.


Oxo Kitchen Scale

A scale is really necessary if you’re going to do serious cooking because wherever possible, you should measure your ingredients by weight, not by volume.  A given mass of flour can vary a lot in volume, depending on things like humidity, temperature, and how long it’s been sitting.  A weight indicator shows the capacity left on the Scale before maximum capacity is reached. Press the zero button to offset the weight of a container or to set the weight back to zero to add additional ingredients. The display features large, easy-to-read numbers which measure in 1/8-ounce and 1-gram increments and the platform can be removed for cleaning. The Scale has a 5-pound capacity and two AAA batteries are included.


Immersion blender

Don’t buy a cheap one–stick with Braun, Cuisinart, or KitchenAid.  They aren’t cutting edge but if you don’t have one, you don’t know what you are missing.  I use mine for my making Caesar Salad Dressing, pureeing soups, and chopped a lot of vegetables.


Black and Decker Thermal Carafe Coffee MakerBlack and Decker Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker

With a stylish design and durable stainless steel carafe, this 8-cup coffeemaker is perfect for home, office or practically anywhere you want hot, fresh coffee at the touch of a button. All this, plus an easy-clean control panel and dishwasher-safe removable parts for effortless cleanup.  The advantage of the carafe is that you won’t be stuck with hot burnt coffee in case you don’t get it off the maker in time.  The coffee will be as hot and fresh later as it is right now.

Purchase from Amazon | $48


Wine Decanter

Wine DecanterYou can get a $10 wine decanter at your neighbourhood grocery store but if you want to get a memorable gift, check out this etched globe decanter.

  • Use for port, cognac or wine
  • As you spin the decanter, its precious contents will also aerate to open up the flavour and allow your wine or spirits’ aromas to develop
  • Heat-resistant glass globe decanter features decorative etching of the world map
  • Includes glass decanter stopper and glass base

 

Cuisinart Electric Fondue Pot

I have had a couple of traditional fondue pots and they are really a pain to keep at the right temperature.  This fondue pot solves all of that with electric temperature controls.  Designed for use with oil, broth, chocolate, or cheese, the set combines powerful electric heat with easy temperature control and handsome but tidy construction. The 3-quart stainless-steel bowl is lined with nonstick coating for keeping heated foods from sticking, and the stand, bowl, ring, and temperature probe all assemble and disassemble easily. A combination of finishes—brushed on the bowl and ring, mirror on the stand and handles—gives the unit a contemporary flair which will complement the great food you are sharing.


Lodge Pre-Seasoned Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Sportsman's Charcoal GrillIf you are a griller who loves to cook on charcoal, you will want to check out this cast iron hibachi grill.

  • Measures 19 by 10-1/4 by 8-1/4-inch; limited lifetime warranty.
  • 2 Adjustable heights temper cooking speed; wash by hand
  • Draft door regulates heat; coals accessible behind flip-down door
  • Cooking grate measures 17-1/4 by 9-inch; seasoned and ready to use
  • Rugged, charcoal, hibachi-style grill made of durable cast iron

This rugged, charcoal hibachi-style grill is perfect for picnics, tailgating and car camping or patio. A draft door regulates the heat. Coals are accessible behind a flip down door. Grill has two adjustable heights. Seasoned and ready to use.


imageBodum Tea Press

A lovely way to brew tea to your exact preference, the Bodum Shin Cha tea press combines elegant shaping with crafty functionality. The spherical glass pot features a stainless-steel plunge infuser inside and a stainless-steel lid. Fill the infuser with loose leaf or tea bags, add hot water, wait the desired amount of steeping time, then plunge. The plunger pushes the tea below the infuser holes, so brewing stops on a dime and tea does not over steep to the point of bitterness. To clean up, the unit goes safely in the dishwasher. With its glass spout, body, and handle, the Shin Cha showcases tea colors beautifully but does require somewhat careful handling.


All-Clad One Quart Saucier

Little pans (especially high quality ones) tend to be overlooked as gifts but I use them a lot around the house in making things like gravy, au juice, or if I need a smaller portion of something.  I never thought it was that important but now that I have one, I love it.

Burr coffee grinderBurr coffee grinder

For grinding larger quantities of coffee beans for a coffee-drinking crowd, Capresso’s commercial-grade Infinity grinder handles 8-1/2 ounces of beans at a time. Sixteen different settings–four each in the four categories of extra fine, fine, regular, and coarse–let you adjust the grind to the specific blend of coffee and method of brewing. The finest setting is ideal for preparing Turkish coffee, which is a rare feature to find in a grinder. A built-in timer sets the grind for anywhere between 5 and 60 seconds so you can walk away without having to constantly press a button to continue the grinding process. The Infinity has an advanced conical burr design made of steel that is usually only found on commercial grinders. This burr design slows down the gears and reduces the amount of friction and heat to preserve coffee’s flavour and aroma. The coffee container holds up to 4 ounces of grounds and remains sealed during grinding. For safety, the bean container also needs to be locked into place for the Infinity to operate. For easy cleaning, the bean container and upper burr lift off so you can clean the grinding chamber with the included brush and wipe down the exterior housing.


Cuisinart Griddler

Yes you have a George Forman grill but this is so much more than that.  The Cuisinart Griddler is actually five appliances in one. A hinged, floating cover and one set of removable and reversible cooking plates turn the Griddler into a contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle, or half grill/half griddle. Dual temperature controls and indicator lights make this product easy to use.

Cuisanart GriddlerCuisanart Griddler


Extravagant Gestures:  $150 and Up

81bW czYLEL._SL1500_Kitchenaid Convection Oven

It’s a great replacement for the stove in the summer and a supplement to the oven when you are making a big meal or for parties.  We have a toaster oven at the cabin as our main oven and while I miss the size of my oven, I am surprised how much cooking and baking I can do with it and how much we use it.


Kitchenaid Commercial Grade Stand MixerKitchenaid Stand Mixer

The Professional 600 TM has a powerful motor that is crafted for commercial-style performance, the direct drive, all-steel gear transmission delivers unyielding power for professional results. The mixer can effectively mix up to 14 cups of all-purpose flour per recipe and produce up to 8 pounds of mashed potatoes. The Soft Start mixing feature helps minimize ingredient splatter and flour puff with gentle acceleration to selected speed after start-up. Electronic Speed Sensor monitors operation to maintain precise mixer speed. Commercial-style motor protection automatically shuts off the mixer when overload is sensed to protect the motor. Durable all-steel gears provide reliable service. The mixer includes a 6-quart-capacity stainless-steel mixing bowl with a contoured handle, as well as a professional wire whip, a burnished flat beater, a spiral dough hook, and a one piece pouring shield. Its multipurpose attachment hub with a hinged hub cover flips open to allow for easy installation of attachments. The Professional 600 Series bowl-lift design raises the bowl into the mixing position, and its solid, truly seamless one-piece motor head design is easy to clean and comes in a variety of fashionable colors.


Kitchenaid Food Processor

With its powerful motor, this convenient food processor quickly and easily slices, dices, chops, and purees, helping to reduce prep time in the kitchen. The appliance comes with a large 9-cup work bowl that makes it easy to create an entire meal from scratch. The unit’s extra-large one-piece feed tube accommodates whole fruits and vegetables and allows for continuous processing.

Accessories include a stainless-steel medium slicing disc (4 mm), a stainless-steel shredding disc, a chopping/mixing blade, a dough blade, and a detachable disc stem, plus a plastic spatula, a recipe/instruction book, and a how-to DVD. The unit’s compact build means it will fit comfortably on any countertop, and its brushed stainless finish adds a touch of elegance to any modern kitchen. All removable parts clean up easily by hand or in the dishwasher. The food processor measures 9-1/2 by 7 by 13 inches and carries a three-year limited warranty with a 10-year limited warranty on the motor.


Tonx Coffee

Watch the video and then decide if the person on your list would love a subscription to Tonx at $19 per shipment.  I think many people in all of our lives would say yes.


Christmas Gift Guides and Gift IdeasIf you are looking for more or past Christmas Gift Guides, check out this series of Christmas gift and idea guides that he posts each year on his website.

Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas For Your Wife/Girlfriend/Mother | 2013 Edition

I put together a list of gifts for the women in your life, from electronics to jewelry to stuff for the kitchen.  Of course it tends to be slanted towards stuff that Wendy likes but hopefully it gives you some ideas as well.  I know of one guy that just gives his wife a watch every single year.  It doesn’t matter how nice of a watch it is, after a decade of watches, you need to show some creativity.

Take a look around and if you have any better ideas, let me know in the comments.  You can see all of the other Christmas Gift and Idea Guides here.

Technology

Tablets continue to be big and if she is thinking of upgrading her laptop, check out these tablets by Amazon, Apple, and Google.

Kindle Fire HDX

Kindle Fire HDX

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX packs a 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 1,920-by-1,200 IPS LCD display for quick response and sharp images. One of the more interesting features is "Mayday," a tech support system where a live Amazon employee appears in a video window on your tablet.

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX earned four-out-of-five stars in PCMag’s review, gaining points for its sharp screen, fast processor, and ease of use.  If you are shopping for a reader or a person who loves to online shop, this is a great choice.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $254

    Nexus 7

    2013 Google Nexus 7

    Google’s flagship tablet, this year’s version is thinner, lighter, and faster – Nexus 7 brings you the perfect mix of power and portability and features the world’s sharpest 7" tablet screen – putting over 2.3 million pixels in the palm of your hand.  With 323 pixels packed into every inch, you can read text that’s sharper than the printed page, see images more vivid than the highest quality photo magazine, and watch videos come to life in vibrant 1080p HD.

    Nexus 7 is made by ASUS and packs a serious punch. With a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon™ S4 Pro processor and 2GB of RAM, everything runs faster (or at least faster than the Kindle Fire HDX)

  • Purchase from Google | $229

    iPad Mini 2 (now with Retina display)

    iPod Mini 2

    iPad Mini 2 features a beautiful 7.9-inch display (now with retina display), iSight and FaceTime cameras, the A7 chip, ultrafast wireless, and up to 10 hours of battery life. And over 300,000 apps on the App Store made for iPad also work with iPad Mini. So it’s an iPad in every way, shape, and slightly smaller form.

    If she is an iPhone or Mac user, the integration with iMessage makes the iPad purchase a no-brainer.

  • Purchase from Apple | $329

    Amazon Kindle

    Amazon KindleIf you are just looking for an e-reader, check out the basic. Amazon Kindle ($69).  At only $69, it has an e-ink screen, works well outside, and the battery lasts forever (mine lasts for weeks).  It doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles of a tablet but you can’t beat it for reading.  Not everyone has a desire to be online 24/7 which is why you still see Kindles all over campus and on commutes.

  • Purchase Amazon Kindle from Amazon.com | $69

    Kitchen

    Griddle

    Family Sized Griddle

    Wendy wanted one of these a couple of years ago and I was told not to get her one by some cooks that I know.  They said she would only use it for cooking up eggs, sausage, and pancakes and that is exactly what she wanted one for.  Since getting her one, she uses it several times a week and has become one of her favorite kitchen tools and has made cooking a lot easier.  She doesn’t know how she has gone without one.  Even at the cabin, where space is at a premium, Wendy bought one for up there. 

    If space is a concern, check out this compact apartment sized griddle from Presto.

  • Purchase family sized griddle from Amazon.com | $30
  • Purchase compact griddle from Amazon.com | $25

    Music

    iPod Nano | iPod Classic

    Apple iPod ClassicBoth the 16 gig and 160 gig versions hold thousands of songs and videos and can be taken everywhere.  I gave Wendy a 16 gig iPod Nano and she uses it all of the time.  It now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display as well as FM radio.  You can also watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. A perfect workout partner, iPod Nano tracks your steps, your runs, and burned calories and syncs to the Nike+ website to challenge friends. And with built-in Bluetooth technology, you can wirelessly connect to speakers, headphones, or car stereos.

    The new iPod classic comes with 160GB of storage in the same compact size, making it the take-everything-everywhere iPod. It’s available in quintessential silver or striking black. iPod classic also has plenty of battery life (up to 36 hours of audio playback or 6 hours of video playback), good looks (a sleek, anodized aluminum design), and other great features (Cover Flow and Genius playlists for creating perfect playlists). You can even rent a movie from iTunes and watch it on the go.

    Purchase iPod Nano from Amazon

  • Purchase iPod Classic from Amazon | $249
  • Purchase iPod Nano from Amazon | $169

    JVC Xtreme Xplosive headphones

    JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphonesWhile headphones from Monster, Skull Candy, and Beats by Dre get a lot of attention, you may want to check out these excellent JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphones.   $16 gets you an attractive bass booming set of in ear headphones that are great for everyday use.  Both Wendy and I have a pair and they get used all of the time with our iPod’s and provide a great sound at a price that is affordable.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $16

    Sony MDR ZX300 Headphones

    Sony MDR ZX300 headphones Boasting 30mm drivers, the Sony MDR ZX300 headphones are designed for use in and out of the studio. These MDR-ZX300 ZX Series stereo headphones feature high-quality audio components; pressure-relieving, urethane-cushioned earpads for greater comfort and a noise-reducing, supra-aural design.

    We have three pairs of these in the house and they get used for everything from chilling out to music to editing podcasts.  They are comfortable, inexpensive, and they look good.

    They aren’t on par with Beats Solo or Bose AE2 but they are about $80 cheaper than either one of those (excellent) options while still giving you excellent sound quality.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $23

    Bose Wave Music

    Bose Wave Music System

    The famous Wave music system still sets the standard for quality audio and ease of use among one-piece, table top stereos.  It looks great and will upgrade any home stereo system.  If your wife or girlfriend is a music lover, this is gift you are looking for.

    Its bold, detailed sound remains exceptional for a system of its size. Now, there’s even more to like. An advanced FM/AM tuner displays useful information like song titles and artists. Touch-top on/off/snooze controls and dual alarms make waking up a little easier–for both of you. You’ll appreciate these welcome additions, plus the same jaw-dropping sound, elegant finish and easy operation you’ve come to expect from this system.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $500

    X-Mini MAX II Portable Capsule Speakers

    X-Mini MAX II Portable Capsule Speakers

    Developed in Singapore, the X-mini™ MAX II Capsule Speaker™ is expertly designed to be ultraportable and precisely engineered to deliver a superior sound. With a simple twist and lift, the avant garde capsule-shaped design unveils a pair of stereo speakers. These stylish speakers, which can also be used individually, pop open to reveal the patented accordion-like Bass Xpansion System™ (BXS™) which successfully mimics the resonance of a sub woofer.

    The logical choice for the itinerant music aficionado, the powerful yet compact X-mini™ MAX II Capsule Speaker™produces high-fidelity sound at any pitch or volume and is perfect in all environments, be it the boardroom or kitchen.

    Purchase from Amazon.com | $40


    Lifestyle

    Timex Women’s Ironman Watch

    Timex Women’s Ironman Watch Built to handle extreme activities, this timepiece is designed with a completely unique white resin design that’s wide at the case and narrow at the strap. The Ironman has everything you need: an easy-to-use 24-hour countdown timer countdown/stop (CS) and countdown/repeat; a one-hour chronograph with lap or split option; a daily/weekday/weekend alarm with five-minute backup; a 30-lap memory recall for workout review; a 99-lap counter. The oval dial has a white digital display with day/date/month calendar, an Indiglo night light, Night-Mode features, and two time zone settings. Powered by precise quartz movement, this Timex is water resistant to 330 feet (100 M).

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $35

    Wenger® Women’s Battalion II Diver Swiss WatchWenger® Women’s Battalion II Diver Swiss Watch

    Stylish enough for everyday professional wear, the Wenger Battalion II Diver stainless steel women’s watch is also rugged enough for extreme snow sports and scuba diving–thanks to its water resistance to 200 meters (660 feet). The mid-sized, round silver watch case is topped by a blue-plated unidirectional rotating bezel with elapsed time markings and a luminous marker at the zero position. The shimmery royal blue dial face is complemented by luminous markers and hands (with red seconds hand), small minute indexes around the outer edge, and a date window between 4 and 5 o’clock. Other features include a handsome triple-link stainless steel bracelet, knurled screw-down crown, classic Swiss Army insignia at 12 o’clock, a scratch-resistant mineral crystal, and precise Swiss quartz movement.

    Purchase from Amazon.com | $200


    Fujifim JX600 Point and Shoot Camera

    Why not upgrade her camera this Christmas with a Fujifilm JX600?  It is a slim, stylish digital camera built to let you capture the moments that bring a smile to your face. With a 5x zoom, this 14MP camera has a CCD sensor to take crisp, clear images every time. Thin enough to pop in your pocket, it boasts advanced filter functions, takes stunning motion panoramas and records HD videos to preserve special moments long after they’ve happened.

    Fujifim JX600 Point and Shoot Camera

  • Purchase from Best Buy | $80

  • Bodum Tea Press

    Bodum Tea PressA lovely way to brew tea to your exact preference, the Bodum Shin Cha tea press combines elegant shaping with crafty functionality. The spherical glass pot features a stainless-steel plunge infuser inside and a stainless-steel lid. Fill the infuser with loose leaf or tea bags, add hot water, wait the desired amount of steeping time, then plunge. The plunger pushes the tea below the infuser holes, so brewing stops on a dime and tea does not over steep to the point of bitterness. To clean up, the unit goes safely in the dishwasher.

  • Purchase from Amazon | $67


  • Canon Rebel T5i Digital SLR Camera and 18-55mm Lens Kit

    Canon Rebel T5i Digital SLR Camera and 18-55mm Lens Kit

    Photo enthusiasts rejoice! The new flagship of the spectacular Rebel Line, the EOS Rebel T5i, is here to renew your artistic side with amazing imaging features and full-featured functionality. Users will be impressed at how simple and intuitive it is to create breathtaking photos with ease.

    The incredible image quality and performance starts with an 18.0 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor and Canon’s superb DIGIC 5 Image Processor. Combined with an extensive ISO range of 100–12800 (expandable to 25600 in H mode), the EOS Rebel T5i boasts crisp, detailed images, even in low-light situations. A continuous shooting speed of up to 5.0 fps allows for fast action capture. 9 cross-type AF focus points help ensure crisp focus throughout the frame, and the Hybrid CMOS AF system enables speedy and accurate autofocus when shooting in Live View mode. In addition, the camera is compatible with Canon STM lenses for smooth, quiet AF performance.

    The performance doesn’t stop with photos. EOS Full HD Movie mode with Movie Servo AF makes shooting high quality movies easy, and the brilliant Vari-angle Touch Screen 3.0-inch Clear View LCD monitor II makes composing fun. Seven Creative Filters, now viewable in real time, puts composition control directly in your hands and is just one of the many features of the EOS Rebel T5i that is sure to renew your special person’s creative soul.

    If cost is a factor, check out Canon’s still capable Canon EOS Rebel T3i for $599.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $799
  • Sign up for a free terabyte of space for photos and video at Flickr.

    Detroit from ORK mapsOrk Posters

    If you or the target of your affections lives in Toronto, Vancouver, Boston,BrooklynLos Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle among others.  They are $22 a poster which makes them a pretty cool value.  Of course they don’t have one of either Brandon, Manitoba or Georgetown, Guyana which makes them pretty much useless for Wendy but maybe you will have some better luck.


    MEC Shoulder Bag

    MEC Shoulder BagWendy has had three different versions of one of MECs most popular bags.  The latest version has the vintage look of aged canvas, plus pockets and a slot for your iPad® or e-reader loaded with the complete works of Jack Kerouac.

    • Front flap has pocket.
    • Side pocket has Velcro® flap and a drain hole for your umbrella.
    • An outer pocket has a snap closure, one is zippered and has pen holder and inside pocket, the slot for iPad or e-book reader closes with Velcro.
    • Padded back.
    • Adjustable shoulder strap.

    This could be the coolest version yet.


    Christmas Gift Guides and IdeasAm I missing anything?  Do you have some great ideas I should be thinking of?  Let me know in the comments.

    You can also find all of the rest of the 2013 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!

  • Guest Post: Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for Your Husband/Boyfriend/Father | 2013 Edition

    It’s that time of year again when people start searching the web for Christmas gifts for loved ones.  For the last several years I have published a gift guide of what to get for your husband on JordonCooper.com and this year is no different.  So without further ado (and I know how much we all hate ado), here is my Christmas gift suggestions for your husband/boyfriend/father (and all of the other men in your life).  If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments – Wendy.

    Sony RX-100 II

    Sony RX-100 II compact cameraIf you are looking for the world’s best point and shoot compact camera, here it is; the Sony RX-100 II.

    • It has a huge one inch sensor (which means better low light performance and more vibrant photos)
    • It features an extremely fast F1.8 Carl Zeiss lens which again will mean excellent low light photos and action shots.
    • Connection to your smartphone via Wi-Fi or if you have a new Android powered phone, NFC.
    The New York Times called it the best compact camera ever made and it’s a great second camera to the serious photographer or outdoorsman in your life.  It’s small enough to always have with you and yet powerful enough to make sure he will always get a fantastic photo.  If your guy is one that loves the wilderness and is prone to do things like dump a canoe in the river, the camera is small enough to place in a waterproof Pelican 1010 container so even if he isn’t dry, the camera is.

    Canon Powershot G16
    Canon Powershot G16 CameraOther options to consider for less money is the Canon Powershot G16.  Canon combined a 1 1/17 inch sensor with a DIGIC VI sensor to create a camera that has DSLR type power in a point and shoot body.  The result is a compact, advanced point-and-shoot camera that produces high quality still imagery and full HD 1080p video with notable low-light quality and sensitivity to ISO 12800. The sensor and processor work together to form the Canon HS SYSTEM, which helps to improve the image quality of dimly-lit shots by reducing noise and enhancing the overall clarity. Additionally, the processor offers a range of speed-related assets throughout the camera, including a maximum sustained full-resolution continuous shooting rate of 9.3 fps for over 500 shots as well as a High Speed AF system for maintained sharpness in a variety of shooting conditions.

    Samsung WB30F
    samsung_wb30f_redIf both of these compact cameras left you with a sticker shock (they did for me), you may want to check out this excellent Samsung WB30F.    It features 16.2MP CCD, 24-240mm (35mm Equiv), Optical Zoom Lens Capture HD 720/30p Video, Wi-Fi Connectivity, Panorama, Smart Auto, Smart Movie and smile detection.  Small enough to carry with you everywhere and a good enough quality to get you the photos you want.

          GoPro Hero 3+

          You have probably seen one of the hundreds of amazing videos that have been posted to the GoPro YouTube Channel or seen one of the many thousands of more videos that have been posted over the last couple of years with these amazing cameras.  While GoPro has competitors, none match the features that GoPro offers or any of the many mounts that GoPro has to secure the camera to your car, head, chest, poles, floatation devices, or bikes with ease.  For $20-$30 you can literally mount a GoPro on anything.

          Go Pro Hero 3+

          The camera itself is a lot fun with a super wide angle view, HD video, slow motion video, and time lapse features that allow you to film your ideas.  Jordon has one and has had a lot of fun over the years with it.  Your guy will as well.  An added bonus is that GoPro has released a free video editor so you can easily edit and upload your adventures.


          Fuji XF1

          Fuji XF1 digital cameraLightweight, durable aluminum body parts and synthetic leather covering enhance the feel of the camera in the hand, with texture that resembles genuine leather.

          The bright f/1.8 lens lets you capture quality pictures not normally possible with a compact camera. Noise is kept to a minimum without boosting sensitivity, while camera-shake and subject motion are prevented due to high shutter speeds. And thanks to the large aperture, you can also create attractive "bokeh" blurred background effects.

          With it’s retro styling, it’s also a camera guaranteed to be noticed even before you take those great photos.


          Moleskine hardcover notebookElectronics is cool but so is writing stuff down with pen and paper and nothing beats a Moleskine notebook and a quality pen to do that with.  You can find really nice Moleskine notebooks in any bookstore but for about half of that, you can find journals at your local Staples or office supply store.


          Bose AE2 audio headphonesBose AE2

          I purchased Jordon a pair of Bose IE2 in ear headphones last year.  He put them in his ears and could not believe the difference between them and the $20 headphones he had used forever.  As he said, "It’s like hearing my music for the first time again".  For Father’s Day, I got him a pair of Bose AE2 headphones that go over the ear and the sound was even better.  It’s easy to dismiss high end headphones as not being worth the money but I can really say that these are.  Both are incredibly comfortable and bring a bit of luxury to your world no matter where you are listening to them at.  Everyone needs a retreat and this does that.  I can’t recommend them enough.


          JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphonesIf you are looking for a less expensive option, check out JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphones.   $16 gets you an attractive bass booming set of in ear headphones that are great for everyday use.

          For over the ear comfort and sound at a great price, check out Sony’s MDR-ZX100 headphones.  We have a couple of pairs around the house and they are much loved and oft used.


          Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuffDetroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff | Jordon grew up with Detroit cable television and for many in our city, they have a close affinity with Detroit.  This is the story of what went wrong and is told from a personal perspective. Back in his broken hometown, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charlie LeDuff searches through the ruins for clues to its fate, his family’s, and his own. Detroit is where his mother’s flower shop was firebombed in the pre-Halloween orgy of arson known as Devil’s Night; where his sister lost herself to the west side streets; where his brother, who once sold subprime mortgages with skill and silk, now works in a factory cleaning Chinese-manufactured screws so they can be repackaged as “May Be Made in United States.”

          The Longer I’m Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006- by Paul Wells | This is the book that every one of our friends is reading or wants for Christmas.  In The Longer I’m Prime Minister, Paul Wells explores just what Harper’s understanding of Canada is, and who he speaks for in the national conversation. He explains Harper not only to Harper supporters but also to readers who can’t believe he is still Canada’s prime minister. In this authoritative, engaging and sometimes deeply critical account of the man, Paul Wells also brings us an illuminating portrait of Canadian democracy: “glorious, a little dented, and free.”


          Samsung 2.1 Channel 100-Watt Dual Audio Dock | If the guy you are shopping for is a music lover, you will want to consider this amazing Samsung wireless speaker dock. Incredible sound and rich, warm styling makes the Samsung DA-E750 wireless audio dock the perfect addition to your home. The unique vacuum tube amplifier technology lets you hear music the way it was meant to be heard. Compatible with both Samsung and Apple phones, this device lets you stream music using either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology, or load it from a USB memory stick.

          Samsung 2.1 Channel 100-Watt Dual Audio Dock


          SANGEAN WR-11 AM/FM Table Top RadioIf your husband is a fan of the radio (nothing better than baseball on a summer’s night over the radio), check out the SANGEAN WR-11 AM/FM Table Top Radio.  Elegant simplicity combined with state-of-the-art performance sets the Sangean Model WR-11 AM/FM Table Top Radio head and shoulders above the competition. In true Sangean tradition, AM/FM reception is excellent providing clear and static free listening. Rotary dials adjust the volume, selects AM/FM bands, and precisely tunes your station selection displayed in a softly lighted analog display. An LED tuning eye assures you’re achieving the best reception for your selected station. In addition, a stereo headphone jack and provision for an external AM and FM antenna is also provided. An AUX-In jack for playing your favourite MP3 music from your portable devices is available as well as a Record-Out jack for routing to your recording equipment or external devices.

          Plus baseball just sounds better played on one of these radios.


          X-Mini II Portable Capsule SpeakerX-Mini II Portable Capsule Speaker | Jordon gave me one of these last year and I thought it looked cute and didn’t think much more about it but they work fantastic.  The big difference with the X-Mini II speakers is that you can link them together to create better sound as well as more volume.  We take ours with us everywhere and its nice at the cabin or even in a hotel room on a vacation.   There are some other two speaker options as well but you can find the X-Mini’s almost everywhere and they are about the same price.


          1296669-p-MULTIVIEWKenneth Cole Leather Messenger Bag

          Keep your belongings, and yourself, stylishly organized with Kenneth Cole’s lovely messenger bag. Contrast stitching accents its rich leather body, while a short handle and long, adjustable strap keep your carrying options open. The flap closure opens up to reveal a roomy main compartment, complete with a full-length zipper pocket for your smaller necessities. Front gusseted pockets include a cell phone pocket to keep it handy and within reach.

          Soft, Columbian full-grain leather and casual, but polished styling make this messenger the perfect bag for work and everyday. The interior is simple, but versatile enough to carry a laptop, papers, books, etc. There is even a cell phone pocket plus organizer features in the front gusset pockets.


           
          Boeing Airmail Laptop SleeveBoeing Airmail Laptop Sleeve | Yes I am sure your guy has a laptop bag but he doesn’t have this laptop bag which will standout wherever he goes.  It’s both unique and incredibly manly at the same time while protecting his most precious possession, his Macbook or laptop.

          RCAF Large Kit Bag |  What an amazing piece of Canadiana.  This RCAF kit bag is a great value all by itself but then you add in the design and the coolness factor and you have a great gift for any fan of Canadian or military history.

          Red Canoe Dopp KitRCAF Dopp Kitt | Unlike many women who require a small suitcase for their toiletries, a traveling man needs only a few essentials to be happy. Nevertheless, a man needs a place to stow these items. Enter the Dopp kit.  Now you can get a $5 shaving kit from Wal-Mart but that has no class  What you want is something with personality and I think we can all agree, this dope kit has personality.  Not only will it keep you guy’s stuff organized, it will be something he holds on to for years and years.


          Whiskey Stones

          Whiskey Sipping Stones

          Sipping Stones is the aficionado’s choice for chilling a drink. It eliminates a common problem for all connoisseurs of fine whiskey: it cools your drink perfectly without the dilution from melting ice. Now all your favorite drinks are able to be served the way they were intended to be, perfectly pure and precisely chilled. Sipping Stones are non-porous meaning there is no odor or taste to tarnish your drink. And unlike ice, Sipping Stones provides a smooth chill that does not overwhelm the character of your beverage. Each set of Sipping Stones comes with nine finely crafted cubes made from soapstone, a safe alternative to ice. Sipping Stones is a great gift for anyone who loves the perfectly chilled beverage. Or you can use it as a conversation starter at your next party. Simply keep the Sipping Stones in your freezer until you are ready to chill your next glass of whiskey.


          Finally, how much fun would any guy have playing with an AR Drone 2.0 quadcopter.  It’s easy to fly, records in HD video and if he does crash it (you know he will), there is a large stock of replacement parts.

          AR Drone 2.0 quadcopter

          That being said, the automated features of the AR Drone 2.0 make it almost impossible to crash making it stable platform to fly, do stunts with or film video with.  Take a look at the video below to see how it performs


          Netatmo Urban Weather Station

          Netatmo Urban Weather StationThe Netatmo Weather Station contains a unique set of sensors to monitor your living environment and wirelessly transmits all your data to your Smartphone. The Netatmo App displays your Station’s indoor and outdoor measurements into clear and comprehensive dashboards, graphs and notifications. All of your data is recorded online and made permanently accessible for you, on your Smartphone or PC. Seamlessly measure, track and monitor your Weather and Environment, indoor and outdoor, at any time and from anywhere. The Netatmo App is available for free at the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store. With the app you can:

          • Connect multiple Stations to your Smartphone or computer
          • Check the your Stations from any Smartphone or computer
          • Share the info on your favorite social networks

          We spend 80% of our time indoor, resting, playing with the kids or at the office. The Netatmo Station monitors your indoor air quality (CO2 concentration), and reminds you to ventilate, at the right moment. The Netatmo Weather Station allows city dwellers to monitor indoor air quality, get real-time updates on local Air Quality Index report and pick the best moments for outdoor activities.The Netatmo Weather Station also monitors noise pollution and measures home or office acoustic comfort.

          Bushnell 10×42 Binoculars

          Bushnell 10x42 BinocularsBushnell Powerview Roof Prism Binoculars are designed to provide high-quality optics in a versatile and durable format at an affordable price. Constructed with a rugged, shock absorbing rubber armor for a comfortable, non-slip grip and equipped with the roof prism system for increased durability, Powerview Binoculars are suitable for multiple applications from sports to nature viewing. The 10×42 Powerview Binoculars offer powerful 10x magnification with larger, light-gathering 42-millimeter objective lenses that will perform well anywhere you use them–from a bird watching hike to a stadium. Meanwhile the BaK-7 prisms and multi-coated optics provide high-level image resolution and clarity. Additional user friendly details include a center focus knob for easy adjustments, fold down eye cups, and a tripod adaptable base. Bushnell Powerview Binoculars carry a limited lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship for the original owner.

          Purchase at Amazon.com | $69


          Tonx Coffee

          Give the gift of great coffee.  Tonx sources the best beans from exceptional coffee farmers who are as fanatical about tasty coffee as we are. To make the best cup, you have to start with the best ingredients. Tonx has years of experience finding and working with the best farmers in the world.

          They then ship that amazing coffee to your house.  It costs you $19 per 12oz shipment and you have a new shipment coming every two weeks.  That’s right, fresh coffee beans coming to your house every second week.  How awesome is that?


          He Likes Black Coffee MugHe Likes Black Coffee | This is a mug for Jordon.  Over the years I have given some cool (and not so cool) gifts but his eyes light up every time he sees a cool coffee mug.  Of course there are some limitations.  Your guy has to like black coffee but if he does, he will love this gift.


          Art Prints

          Jordon Cooper's prints for sale at Image KindI am biased because Jordon has been selling some amazing photographs of shots he has posted to The Daily but have you considered the gift of art this Christmas?  Image Kind has hundreds of incredible artists selling amazing art on archival quality paper.  Not only are you supporting local artists but you are getting someone you love something that they won’t get at your local big box store.  Check out his Saskatoon, rural, and travel galleries.  You may be surprised at what you will find there.


          Am I missing anything?  Do you have some great ideas I should be thinking of?  Let me know in the comments.

          Christmas Gift Guides for all of the important people in your lifeYou can also find all of the rest of the 2013 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!

          No Way Up

          Luxury Spanish high-rise forgot to install an elevator

          No Elevator

          The Intempo skyscraper in Benidorm, Spain—standing proud in this image—was designed to be a striking symbol of hope and prosperity, to signal to the rest of the world that the city was escaping the financial crisis. Sadly, the builders forgot to include a working elevator.

          In fairness, the entire construction process has been plagued with problems, reports Ecnonomia. Initially funded by a bank called Caixa Galicia, the finances were recently taken over by Sareb – Spain’s so-called “bad bank” – when the mortgage was massively written down.

          In part, that was a function of the greed surrounding the project. Initially designed to be a mere 20 storeys tall, the developers got over-excited and pushed the height way up: now it boasts 47 storeys, and will include 269 homes.

          But that push for more accommodation came at a cost. The original design obviously included specifications for an elevator big enough for a 20-storey building. In the process of scaling things up, however, nobody thought to redesign the elevator system—and, naturally, a 47-storey building requires more space for its lifts and motor equipment. Sadly, that space doesn’t exist.

          Perhaps unsurprisingly, the architects working on the project have resigned, and it remains unclear exactly how the developers will solve the problem. Can we recommend the stairs?

          Is the future of…

          FI asks if this is future of airline websites.  As you can expect, WestJet designers look at AirCanada’s website who is looking at United’s who just looked at WestJets.  Industry sites often become less about the user and more about copying neat features from other sites.  The same happens with city and all sorts of other websites.  The end result is that Saskatoon’s new website will look like Edmonton, Toronto, and Chicago’s website and we go, “We’ve done a great job” because we are as cool as everyone else.  Instead we need to be doing a process like this.  Of course we don’t because while the end result isn’t the same, it’s not the same as Chicago, Edmonton, or WestJets.

          The Saskatoon Advantage

          So after watching the videos about Detroit, Edmonton, and Calgary, I give you the first video about Saskatoon that I found on YouTube that was published by one of our own agencies.

          Yes, the number one video by the City of Saskatoon is not about how awesome Saskatoon is, it is about the worst part of Saskatoon and how we don’t remove snow from residential streets.  Well done Saskatoon.  Of course SREDA has created Living Saskatoon but take a look at the videos, oh wait, there are none.  Just text, one photo, and some links.   It is like we aren’t even trying.

          In Edmonton’s white paper on how to build a more prosperous city, taxes were important but even more important was the creating and the sharing of the Edmonton brand to attract top people and businesses to Edmonton.  Calgary’s Mayor Nenshi talks about the same thing and the need to attract top talent to Calgary and they will create more jobs and wealth.  It was actually something that Regina’s Pat Fiacco did quite well for them.  While Saskatoon’s video about snow removal talks about how hard it is to live here, Edmonton is talking about how it makes them stronger and more competitive.

          Saskatoon on the other hand hasn’t quite got it yet.  We still think that if there are jobs, people will come but there are jobs in Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia as well.  People are making money in Regina, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw and yes, that is the competition.

          Saskatoon is home to Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (who is having a bad day today but they’ll bounce back), Cameco (bad last couple of quarters) and we hope they bounce back, BHP Billiton’s Canadian head office, a vibrant downtown, and a lot of outside investment by developers like Lefevbre & Company (you have to look at their website right now, don’t worry, I’ll wait), and success stories that are home grown.  You can make money in Saskatoon and have a great quality of life.

          Of course we need to start to realize that a) we need to compete with other cities and b) we can compete with other cities (and win).  That being said, we need to put on a better first impression than a video about snow removal.

          Of course here is one of Regina’s efforts.

          Maybe no video is better than that video.

          Right Here

          And is Calgary’s branding for why you need to be there.  Here is some of the videos from last year.

          These are all part of the Be Part of the Energy campaign that Calgary is running.

          We’re Moving to Detroit, and So Should You

          Lowe Campbell Ewald is moving 600 people to Detroit to be a part of the rebirth of the city and I love the video they announce it with.  After you watch the video, I want to know why more cities don’t do stuff like this.  Where is the video making the pitch for Saskatoon and being part of the boom and still shaping the city while you can?

          Joseph Abboud Brown Elastic Front Pocket Wallet

          For years I have used a leather wallet with a zipper around it.  To be honest I hate dropping my wallet and cards going everywhere.  This wallet works fine for it and lasts about five years before it needs replacing.  Lately Jeff and Sean have been going on and on about their Umbra Bungee Wallets which look cool but I have never liked carrying.  They have been going on and on about how slim they are which is something that is kind of important.  No one wants to have George Costanza wallet.

          George costanza wallet

          Last week I lost my wallet.  I am 99% sure it is in our house but I fear that it was tossed out by Oliver or Mark while cleaning.  I was going to swallow my pride and get one of those Umbra wallets but that would mean that I value Jeff and Sean’s opinions on accessorizing.  The next you know I’ll be taking council’s advice on how many bridge lanes the city needs.  It’s a slippery slope.  I was seriously thinking of getting a Bellroy Wallet but $60 for a wallet is more than I wanted to pay.  

          Instead I looked around and found a Joseph Abboud Front Pocket Wallet which as you can see, is extremely thin and compact and minimizes the bulk of most wallets.  I bought it for $8.  In case you are thinking that I have lost it and have gone off the deep end, Walmart has a large selection of front pocket wallets, which I don’t know if that helps my point or destroys it.

          Joseph Aboud front pocket leather wallet

          Of course it is extremely thin now as all I have in it is my temporary drivers licence and my BMO Debit Card.  I hate losing wallets.  

          In case you want to slim down your wallet, Bellroy has some excellent tips but I also discovered Stocard which really what Apple’s Passport should have been.  It scans and keeps track of all of my reward cards in one place.  Here is the screenshot of what it holds (and you now know what reward programs that I belong to)

          Photo

          Once you enter in your member number (or let it scan in your card’s barcode) all I have to do is fire up the app and let the store scanner scan the barcode (or if that doesn’t work, touch the screen and your member number comes up right away).  Like most of you, I always have my phone on me so there is no point in carrying it and a wallet full of reward cards).  It’s free and you can get the app for iOS and Android.   I can’t recommend it enough.  That and it’s not an Umbra cardholder so we all win.

          What It Takes to Be #1

           

          Vince Lombardi turns 100 today.

          “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

          There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that’s first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I don’t ever want to finish second again. There is a second place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers. It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win, and to win.

          Every time a football player goes to ply his trade he’s got to play from the ground up – from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play. Some guys play with their heads. That’s O.K. You’ve got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you’ve got to play with your heart, with ever fiber of your body. If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.

          Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization – an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win – to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don’t think it is.

          It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That’s why they are there – to compete. To know the rules and objectives when they get in the game. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.

          And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.

          I don’t say these things because I believe in the ‘brute’ nature of men or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”

          - Coach Vincent T. Lombardi

          The Grey Owl’s Expedition Gear Guide

          Since we are still planning to do a hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin, we have been picking up some gear for the trip.  A lot of people have been asking us what we are taking so here is the quick list of gear that is going.

          Backpacks: To carry the gear, we have some frameless backpacks with hip straps.  You can spend a lot of money on these and after reading around, we think we found the right balance between comfort, durability, and price.

          NORTH 49® CYCLONE BACKPACKS

          If I was walking the Appalachian Trail, I would definitely have purchased a more expensive backpack but it’s only a day and we are only taking so much stuff.  I bought our bags on clearance for $30.  They are 40 litres and have the external straps I want.  They should do the job. 

          Tents: Wendy and I are staying in a three man tent we bought for $16 from Wal-mart.  They had a loss leader going this winter and we got it then.  It’s light and just big enough for the two of us.   The tent opens up and hopefully we will be able to sleep under the skies rather than under the fly.  If it does look like it could rain, we’ll be fine underneath it.

          Ozark Trail Tent

          If I was going camping rather than backcountry hiking, we would have gotten something larger and higher quality.  Weight and size are a factor.  Also the price was insanely cheap ($16 on sale).  If it doesn’t last, no harm done but the reviews online were pretty solid.  It’s no where near as durable as a tent from the North Face but then again, it won’t be asked to do much more than keep the mosquitoes or drizzle off of us.

          0765159 1

          Mark is staying in a one person tent from Eagle’s Camp.  It is small but it will be only him and his bag.  I don’t know how long it will last him but once he gets to big for it, it can be used by Oliver at the cabin.  Either way it is really light and since Mark will be carrying it in and out, he will appreciate the weight.  We bought some ropes to add as guy wires which opens it up a bit.  It’s small but it is light.

          We did waterproof and seal the seams and upgraded the tent pegs to something lighter and more likely to stay in the ground.  If the weather is miserable, we should be okay.

          Sleeping bags: Mark had a sleeping bag but Wendy and I wanted new 1.5 pound sleeping bags.  We picked up two at XS Cargo for $10 each.  We will have sleeping foams as well.   Walmart is charging $20 for their sleeping pads but we bought ours at a liquidation place for $3.  We also bought some compression straps so the sleeping bags take up as little as room as possible.

          For lighting, Wendy bought me a new headlamp for my birthday and both Mark and Wendy have headlamps and lanterns  We also have a flashlight and Nite Ize LED zipper tags on our backpacks so if we wonder out in the dark, we can be seen.

          For the kitchen, we have a Primus Classic Trail Stove and Primus fuel canisters.  Stoves have their own fanboy culture which I understand but for the price, it can’t be beaten.  I know this isn’t the stove to use when it’s winter but since we are doing the hike in July, we should be okay.   It also has a five star review on Amazon.com so it seems to be doing the job.

          100119

          Coleman also has a propane stove which uses their fuel.  The big advantage was that you can get the propane at almost any store while you need to get fuel for the Primus at a specialty store like Cabela’s, MEC, REI.  The disadvantage of the Coleman stove is the weight of the larger canister and the stove itself.  in the end it made more sense to go with the Primus stove which is small enough to be tucked into our cooking gear.  Of all of the things we have purchased for this hike, the Primus Classic Trail Stove is my favorite.

          For backup we have a Magic Heat Stove and canisters.  I picked them up because they were cheap, good for winter travel, and lightweight.  I don’t expect to have to use them but we will take them depending on the weather forecast.  If it is going to be nice, we will leave them but if there is a chance of rain and the idea of fighting with wet wood doesn’t appeal, then we will take the backup stoves.

          As for the camp kit, years ago Lee gave Wendy a great camp set.  We picked up three sparks and we are set to go.

          As for water, I have talked to a lot of people who had drank right out of Kingsmere Lake with no side affects.  There are giardia warnings about the water so we will have some water filters.  It’s way cheaper using purification tablets but I am told they are disgusting.  Since we are walking along side the lake, we will be using collapsible water bottles to keep weight and volume down.

          Food: Basically MRE’s.  We have been to Cabela’s weekly testing out one or two of them each time.  We will eat some snacks on the way in, have a nice dinner (well away from the campground to keep the bears away) and then a big breakfast in the morning on our way out.  Hopefully we get going in time to be back in Waskesiu for a late lunch before heading back to Saskatoon.

          Clothes: I went out and invested in some decent hiking shorts and shirts this summer.  As a friend of mine told me that chafing is not something that you will want to do while on the trail.  We also went to Cabela’s and got tested by the Dr. Shoal’s machine for the kind of insoles we all need.  While the custom Dr. Shoals insoles are right there, a row over are competitor insoles designed the same way for a fraction of the cost.  They make hiking boots feel a lot more comfortable and will hopefully make the trip more pleasant.

          Technology: We won’t be taking much technology along although we will have a GPS, binoculars, and some cameras.  The idea is to keep the weight down as much as possible but at the some time we want to have some photographs and video.  I don’t expect to have cell coverage on the hike but it won’t matter as our phones will be turned off.  We will have our multi-tools and a hatchet with us but I don’t know if that is considered technology or not.  In case we do get some rain, we have some gadget bags which are essentially waterproof zip lock bags for gear.  It says that you can submerse them but I’d rather not.  What they do a good job of doing is if a tent or bag does leak, your stuff will still be safe.

          We bought everything local.  While MEC had a good price on some stuff, by the time we calculated shipping, it was less expensive to get something at Cabela’s and Wholesale Sports.

          The problem hasn’t been getting the gear that we want, it’s the issue of realizing that everything we do take is going to have to be hauled in and hauled back out.  Let me know if you have some suggestions in the comments below.

          Opportunity

          Opportunity is missed by most...

          Why your iPhone is stifling your creativity

          From Fast Company

          The value of boredom

          Boredom has been defined as wanting to be able to engage in a satisfying activity and not being able to. Its sibling is downtime, both of which the smartphone–and the Angry Birds it implies–eradicates. Another way to look at boredom, Hall says, is to think of it as a creative pause where your mind can drift, which allows you to integrate your recent experiences into your present state of mind.

          Sitting with boredom

          So let’s get a little bit more refined in our terminology: it’s not that we should be in useless awful meetings, the kind that prompt the feeling of I’m so bored!, but rather that we resist the urge to always act on that gestural itch and give our brains a mindful break or time to daydream. Like any designer will tell you, absence has presence. Not doing is a kind of doing.

          The boredom diet

          In the same way that what we eat when we’re hungry has short- and long-term consequences, the actions we take when we’re bored have ongoing outcomes. So says NYU’s Gary Marcus: if you’re bored and use that energy to play an instrument and cook, you’ll be growing; if you drool before your television, you might be happy for a second, but that stimulation junk food will depress you later.

          Since most of what we do on our phones is the daily dillydallying of social networks, playing games, and texting, your iPhone acts like an endless supply of Cheetos.

          So before you dissolve into your screen, check your fingers for orange dust.

          A better way to say goodbye

          I was 12 when I first attended my first funeral.  We had a friend at a nursing home and Mr. Crawford lived next door.  We would go and visit our family friend and see him each time where he was quite nice to all of us, often giving me some money for candy and to get a coffee for my mom.

          When he died, we went to the funeral chapel where his family went on at length about how horrible of human being he was and what a bad father he had been.  We just listened but I was shocked when the minister started his eulogy with, “He was a very bad man”.  

          When I became a pastor, I did a lot of funerals.  Some of them were celebrations of life, others were horrible to perform and yes, I buried some really bad men over the years.  Each time I tried my best to respect the person and life that I was burying while keeping some sense of reality of the life they lived.

          In the work I do now, our clients die very young.  The drugs, violence, lifestyle and alcohol takes it toll on your body.  Toss in HIV/Aids/Hep-C or cancer from the smoking and you have a really low life expectancy.  I have helped more than one mother clean out a locker in a shelter where the only thing she has left of her son was a pair of jeans, a jacket, and really nothing else.  I have always found myself hoping that there be something of value in there, a watch or a something of value for the parent to hold on to but there never is.  Many tears have been shed by family members during those times. 

          In most situations I find myself boxing stuff up and realizing that for the most part, no one was going to come get it.  Months later my janitor asks me what I want him to do with the sealed box.  No one has come to get it.

          Every couple of months I hear that a client that I had worked with has died.  In each and every case I fire up my computer and Google their name.  I search The StarPhoenix’s obituary website and I scour the internet to find out if it is true.  I rarely find anything.  Over the next couple of days I generally run into a member of the Saskatoon Health Region or the Saskatoon City Police and ask them. In every case I get the same reply that they have died.

          They often die alone.  There is no media coverage, no obituary, no will, no assets, and to be honest, almost no one cared.  Many colleagues just block it out like it doesn’t exist.  The file is closed and they are done. Death has never bothered me, neither does the grieving process but in these cases I find myself not sure what to do.  The idea that someone has lived their entire life and there is no trace of it left seems wrong to me.

          I guess as a blogger and a writer, I find myself in a situation where I write to process.  After a sleepless night last night thinking of a couple of people that I had known well that had died, I came in early to work to write something, anything about their lives as I saw them.  Of course I never know what do next.  I tweeted this morning that I was struggling with his and it resonated with people but I don’t know what to do next.  

          Is the best way to mark one’s life to have a service provider eulogize them?  My first encounter with one gentleman was when he assaulted Wendy with a bottle of Listerine she wouldn’t sell him in about 1998.  Of course the other part of that story is that he would beat her at cribbage all of the time when she helped out at a drop-in centre.  Do you tell the stories of abuse, residential schools, the people that they hurt.

          One of the people that recently deceased was a women that I wrote about two years ago in The StarPhoenix.  She had AIDS at the time, was pimped out by her boyfriend and was high for every single interaction that I had with her over seven years.  At the same time I appreciated every single strung out conversation we ever had and I was saddened and sickened when I would see her beaten and bruised.  It’s weird but I miss her.

          They had a legacy with me and we have a bunch of stories that shaped me that are too bizarre to write here (somethings are only funny if you know the person)

          The world doesn’t stop for death.  When you die, people come together, tell some stories, each some sandwiches, sing some hymns, and drink some coffee.  I am not asking the world to stop, I just think they should have some form of legacy.

          In Toronto, they have a homeless memorial.  In Saskatoon we have a walk to remember those lost in the sex trade but at the end of the day they were individuals that lived and died in our city, it would be great if they are remembered as such.  The question for me to figure out, what is the best way to do that.

          Greatest stadium design ever?

          If Saskatoon ever gets a CFL team (and sells our financial future in the process), I hope it looks like this (with grass instead of sand).  You would have cattle grazing on the roof which would work well until they got spooked and came down over the roof during the middle of a key third down conversion.  Then again, it could liven things up a bit.

          Stadium in UAE

          Is this Dr. Evil’s newest secret lair? Actually, the “Rock Stadium” is a real concept for a sporting venue at Jebel Hafeet, a prominent crag located about 14 miles south of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi city of Al Ain. It’s not as ridiculous an idea as it initially may seem. Jebel Hafeet is not a barren, menacing peak like K2, but a popular tourist spot with a luxury hotel and pools fed by a natural hot spring. A stadium might fit right in geographically and socially: After all, the Emirati people love soccer (fine, football) just as much as anyone, welcoming the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 and 2010 and the organization’s under-17 players this fall.

          The stadium was designed by MZ Architects, a Middle Eastern firm with offices in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Lebanon and elsewhere. The architects started out wanting to build a stadium in the Al Ain desert, but once they visited the area they were struck by the imposing and regal form of the mountain, which reminded them of a Greek amphitheatre. So they decided the best plan would be to hollow out the stone, using natural hills for seating and a grand entrance that sinks into the ground like one of the mountain’s many caves.