Category Archives: holidays

Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

While in Banff National Park, Wendy and I took the boys up to Johnston Canyon which was insanely busy.  The parking lot was packed and by the time we left, people were parking over a kilometre in both ways down the Bow Valley Parkway.   We had plans to take the boys to the upper waterfalls.

So as the sign says, it is a 1 km hike to the first falls.  Yet when I started the Map My Hike app on my iPhone, it said that it was 4k with a return hike. 

Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

I think I have met these three people before.

Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

They enjoyed the walk.  They weren’t tired but the progress was at a standstill because there was a group taking selfie’s up ahead.

Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

This is my favorite shot from the hike.

The hike along Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

A Parks Canada employee has what looks to be a long and wet day ahead of him.

Parks Canada employee preparing for what looks to be a long days work at Johnston Canyon in Prince Albert National Park

IMGP0396Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

This is the legendary lower falls of Johnston Canyon.  We had planned to go to the upper falls but as the photos show, the crowds were brutal and the antibiotics I had to deal with the infection in my ankle hadn’t beaten the infection back very far.  Combined it meant that it would be a long hike and since we are coming back next summer to hike to the inkpots, it wasn’t a big deal to call it a day and dodge the selfie sticks back to the car.

Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

I think we can all agree that I nailed this picture of a chipmunk.

 Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

Did I mention that the trail was packed.  This is the main reason why we didn’t go to the second falls.  So many people (and my ankle was really hurting me).  Also, most of the people we passed on the trail were looking at their phones.  Apparently world class scenery and nature doesn’t compete well with Angry Birds.

 Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

If you want to see more photos from Johnston Canyon, check out the full set on Flickr.

Sawback Picnic Area in Banff National Park

Sawback is a small picnic area on the Bow Valley Parkway between Banff and Johnston Canyon.  It used to be small and has gotten smaller since Parks Canada has moved the tables near to the roadside turn off and allowed the vegetation to take over old picnic areas.

Growing up, it was my favorite place in the world.  We used to take a yearly trip from Calgary (and later Saskatoon) to Johnston Canyon and then picnic at Sawback.  I was looking forward to taking the boys there and was quite disappointed when all there was left was some picnic tables near the parking lot.


It wasn’t the picnic areas that make it so great, it was the babbling brook of glacier runoff that make it so much fun to explore as a kid.  I knew that didn’t go anywhere so I followed an overgrown trail into the bush and 50 feet into it I found the brook.


Mark and Oliver did exactly what I did year ago and this jump across it and get all wet.

Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkMark and Oliver at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkMark and Oliver at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park

This shot was right after I had scolded the boys about making faces every time I tried to take their photo.

Mark and Oliver at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park

So while the picnic tables placement kind of sucks, we will return in 2016 with a proper picnic blanket and food.

Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkWendy at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkA forced family photo at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park

I told Mark that there is a sacred Cooper tradition of dunking one’s head into the glacier water that ran out of the Sawback mountain range.  He put his hands in, screamed from the cold…

Mark dunking his head into freezing glacier water at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkMark dunking his head into freezing glacier water at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park


And dunked his head into it.

Mark dunking his head into freezing glacier water at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park

After he got out and was struggling with hypothermia did I tell him that he was the first of the Cooper’s to do such a thing.  Yes, I am a horrible father.

All of the snapshots I took at Sawback can be found in their album on Flickr.

Father’s Day

It was a weird day around here today.  Wendy’s father is dying of cancer.  While they used to be close, he has been horrible to her from the night she told him that she had been molested as a child.  He changed that night and has been horrible to her ever since.

In hindsight if he had said to her that he never wanted to ever talk to her and owned that, it would have been easier but no, her mom has tried to work things out while at the same time blaming Wendy ever since then.  With him dying he wanted to see Wendy (just Wendy, not Mark and Oliver) one last time.  Wendy said no and he kind of burnt every bridge remaining.  Well not that there were not burnt bridges left but he knocked over the piers as well.

It’s really tough on her.  They used to be close.  She thought of him as a friend.  Over the years her mother has been clueless on everything while at least her dad understood some of what she was going through, he would then be cruel while fully understanding what he was doing.  In many ways he hurt her more than the people who molested her did.

So every Father’s Day I get the full brunt of all of that emotion and anger that Wendy feels towards her father.  It just spills out.  Today was no exception except that it had all of the emotion of her being upset that I was sick as well.

Today I had big plans.  The infection in my leg plays havoc on my blood sugar levels.  That makes me really tired so the plan was to go to bed early last night and sleep in today.  However everyone was upset at that plan and was somehow mad that I went to bed early (except the dog) and early this morning they were upset that I was still sleeping.  That was the start of my day.

Another transition in the house is that I am no longer making everyone get ready.  I am frustrated with having to get Wendy and Mark moving out the door every time that I have calmly told them that I am going to give them an itinerary and if they aren’t going to be ready to leave on time, I will leave them behind.

So Friday I let them know that I had tickets to the Saskatoon Valkyries game and that I would leave for Gordie Howe Bowl at 12:30p.  No one was even close to ready.  So I left without them.  That upset everyone even more and made them even more emotional and upset.

I come home and lay down because the last thing I should have done is sit on a bleacher and watch a football game today and waited until my foot had returned to normal.  Again, that caused more anxiety because I wasn’t having fun. 

This kind of anxiety just freezes Wendy and Mark.   Wendy doesn’t know what to do and just introverts everything until she explodes.  Mark is processing this too and doesn’t know what to do. 

So finally I send all three of them out of the house to go for dinner.  The silence was awesome and I got some reading and writing done.

In some ways it is easy for me to deal with things because I have been down this road before with my mom and I know whatever happens, happens.  The doctors will make emergency referrals and do emergency tests and then two months later I will see the specialist I should have seen a month ago.  It’s the Saskatchewan way.  You may die because of how slow our system is but you won’t have to pay for it (somewhere right now Brad Wall is preparing a bar graph that shows less people dying or losing their legs while on a waiting list then under the NDP).

In Wendy’s defense, she had good care when she was really sick.  She has sat there while angry nurses have gotten angry at me because tests haven’t been done yet and have had them say, “Doesn’t anyone realize how serious this is?”  Last time I said, “think of the greater good.”  It didn’t go over well.

In the end, Father’s Day is a difficult day for Wendy.  That makes it a confusing day every year for the boys. 

One of these years we will have a nice Father’s Day.


It is my birthday today.  I was awoken to the sounds of my kids and Wendy coming into my room with presents.  I had plans to open the gift but Oliver made me very aware of what they were.  Wendy gave me a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lens.  Mark gave me an old book about the City of Saskatoon’s street car system.  Believe it or not, we once had an amazing transit system in this city.   Oliver gave me a pair of hiking pants, sunglasses, and a new Starbucks Coffee mug.  Life is good.

The highlight of my day was getting my eyes checked at Prairie Optometry.  After failing my eye exam, it was off to order some new glasses.  

As I had mentioned on Twitter, I found a dog at the Saskatoon SPCA’s website.  I filled out an online application one night and they called me the next morning to pick up the dog.  Today we picked up an 8 month old black labrador mix that had been at the SPCA for a couple of months.  She had come in with her mother and siblings and was the last one left.  After visiting with her for a while, we adopted her and took her home.

Our new dog Marley

So far here is a list of things Marley has chewed on.

  • Wendy’s glasses
  • Wendy’s skull
  • My hand
  • My forearm
  • Wendy’s hand
  • Hutch (the other dog)
  • Slippers
  • Oliver’s boot
  • lip balm
  • Hutch (again)
  • My shin.

We haven’t had a puppy in my life since 1985.  I forgot how much fun they are.  When I say fun, I mean chaos.

Anyways, a word about the SPCA.  I know there are some excellent dog rescue’s out there but the SPCA was really pleasant to deal with.  We have gotten Elway, Maggi, and now Marley there and we couldn’t be happier.  

I have wanted a dog this size since we adopted Elway.  Not that there was anything wrong with Elway or Maggi, they were just bigger than I had wanted when we went in. 

The Grey Owl’s Expedition Gear Guide

Since we are still planning to do a hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin in June, 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.

North 49 65 litre backpack with an internal frameBackpacks: 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.

I am carrying a 65 litre pack.  It is lots big enough for an overnight trip and this way Mark and Wendy don’t have to carry as much stuff.  It will hold Wendy’s and my tent, the cook set, and sleeping back with a lot of space left over.  I won’t use all of that space but it is there.

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.  Mark and Wendy have some smaller bags that I bought there bags on clearance for a combined $30.  They are 40 litres and have the external straps they need.  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 last 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 3-Man 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.  If it was just me, I would got with a two person tent but this way there is just enough room for us and some of our gear.

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. 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 will have foil covered sleeping foams as well and inflatable camping pillows at well which are small, light, and are more comfortable than our bags.   We also bought some compression straps so the sleeping bags take up as little as room as possible.

For lighting both Mark and Wendy have headlamps and lanterns  We also have tactical flashlights and Nite Ize LED zipper tags on our backpacks so if we wander 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 June, we should be okay.   It also has a five star review on so it seems to be doing the job.

Primus Classic Trail Stove

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

Carmanah Large Cookset from Outbound

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, compact binoculars, and some rugged cameras.  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.

Let me know if you have some suggestions in the comments below.

Christmas Day

Hey, it’s Christmas Day this morning.

Like we normally do, we spent Christmas Eve with Lee, Brittany, and Camdyn.  We often spend Christmas Day with the Reimers but with them in Hawaii and having celebrated with them already, we woke up and opened gifts today at home. 

Here is what everyone got.


Wendy and i gave Mark a new Asus MeMo Android tablet with a bluetooth keyboard and a tablet case.  

Asus MeMo Android Tablet

He wasn’t really expecting anything like that so he was pretty blown away.  Mark had amazing parent teacher interviews and then stopped working so his first report card was brutal.  He then has worked really hard since then but deep down I think he was expecting a lump of coal.  Since he is grounded from all television and media until his marks improve, he will appreciate this reprieve.  I am hoping this helps him the new year.  If not, at least he can use it to play Angry Birds Transformers.  

Wendy gave him a VIA Rail shoulder bag with a drafting book inside.  It’s a murse!

The dogs got him the same kind of photography gloves that Wendy also got.

Maggi and Hutch gave him and Oliver PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale so you can imagine them beating each other up playing that.  

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale

Santa Claus gave Mark a tactical flashlight and an old but amazing Pentax manual 200mm f4 prime lens.

Pentax manual 200mm f4 prime lens

I also gave him a and a brand new Pentax 35mm f2.4 lens which shocked him all over again because that is how I roll.  He had been saving up for the lens for a bit and was pretty shocked that we got it for him.


As for Oliver, Wendy gave him a giant X-Wing fighter.  It is huge and he was thrilled.  Attack runs on the Death Star have already commenced. 

T65 X-Wing Fighter from Star Wars

I gave him a toy AH-64 Apache attack helicopter  

AH-64 Apache attack helicopter

Mark got him a Lego Star Wars Snow Speeder.  I just realized I now how to help him assemble this thing.  It comes with two lego characters.  Luke Skywalker and that guy that was crushed by the AT-AT.  So yeah, that’s great.  

Lego Star Wars Snowspeeder

Wendy and I also gave him a Nikon S31 waterproof digital camera.  It was an old one of mine that I didn’t use once in 2014.  Maggi and Hutch got him a Calgary Flames camera case that is styled like a mini backpack to carry his camera in.

Wendy also gave him a giant 200 piece art set.  He’ll love it.

He asked Santa Claus for some grown up binoculars and old St. Nick came through for him and got him a pair and a tactical flashlight. Santa also surprised him with a remote controlled Ford F-250 truck.

Bushmaster binoculars

You can imagine how excited he is about all of that.  You can also imagine how many times all of us have been blinded by his flashlight this morning.


I gave Wendy a Sigma 19mm f2.8 Art Lens for Christmas.

Sigma 19mm Art f2 4 DN Lens

It is her first real prime lens (her other ones are toy lenses) and she is pretty excited about it.

Oliver gave her a new knife set which she has wanted for a while.  He also gave her a J.A. Henckels’ Chef Knife that she has been wanting all winter.   So yeah, we have turned Wendy from a mild mannered person into a well armed killing machine.

J.A. Henckels' Chef Knife

Mark gave her a pair of Sennheisser HD 201 headphones.

Sennheisser 201HD Headphones

Mark also gave her a bamboo cutting board and four piece cheese knife set (I had no idea cheese knives were a thing until now).  Both of these will be used for a large charcuterie board tomorrow afternoon for lunch.

Walmart Cheese Knife Set

Mark also gave her a pair of Thinsulate photography gloves so she can get outside and use her camera more this winter.

Maggi and Hutch gave her some slippers that she later plans to chew up (it’s the circle of life). Considering Hutch and Maggi have no source of income, I am not sure how they did that.

Santa Claus gave Wendy a new LED tactical flashlight.  She wasn’t thrilled that it was bright pink or that it was called the “Maiden” but she does love that it is powerful enough to blind Oliver and Mark if shown in their eyes.  I just told her that Santa was trolling her.  Santa also got her the same pair of binoculars that he gave Oliver.

Police Security Maven Flashlight

I was spoiled for Christmas. 

Wendy gave me a Pentax Q 01 Prime Lens.  It is a fixed f1.9 lens that you should see more of in the coming months.  She also gave me a Kata MarvelX-40 camera bag for the lens and my Pentax Q  

Pentax 01 Standard Prime Lens for the Pentax Q

Mark gave me a video light kit which will be used for OurYXE. 

CowboyStudio Light Kit

Oliver game me a canvas duffle bag from L.L. Bean with a Police Security tactical flashlight, and a Bushnell monocular in it. The dog gave me an old school Stanley thermos.

Large duffle bag from L.L. Bean

Police Security Maven Flashlight

Thanks to everyone, I really appreciate the gifts.

Today we will take some cameras out for a walk and then I will be home debating with Oliver whether or not an AH-64 attack helicopter has a chance against a X-Wing fighter.

I hope your Christmas has been as enjoyable as ours wherever you are reading this from.

Christmas Morning

Good morning everyone. To be honest I hope you aren’t reading this when I post it.  It’s early and I can’t sleep.

Not sleeping well on a Christmas Eve/Christmas morning used to be my normal routine.  As a kid I would go to be early with all of these expectations of Christmas morning in my head.  I desperately wanted to sleep but never could (even then I knew that sleep would make Christmas come sooner).  I would read, count sheep, read some more and eventually around 4 a.m. my brother and sister would wander into my room while we debated if it was too early to go upstairs and wake up my mom (it was but it didn’t stop all three of us from taking the opposite view).

Around 5 a.m. we would try to wake up Mom only to be hollered at to go back to bed (later on I found out that she was awake too but wasn’t going to get up at 5:00 a.m. to open presents).  Around 6:30 a.m. she would wake up and tell us that we couldn’t come up until the coffee machine was done perking her coffee.  The normally fast coffee maker would slow down to a crawl on Christmas morning as we huddled at the bottom of the steps waiting for it to finish while Mom set out our Christmas stockings.  Every drop of coffee was heard and seemed to take forever.

After what seemed like hours, her coffee would be done and we would open our stockings and then our gifts before Mom would make us a big breakfast.  Since our stockings always had candy in them, at least once that morning Mom would say, “no more chocolate until breakfast” which would generate howls of laughter from her and us as soon as the words left her mouth.

After breakfast the wrapping paper would be carefully gathered up making sure nothing got tossed out.  Mom would then turn on the Disneyworld Christmas Day parade and we would collectively mock Regis and Joan Lunden.  Joan Lunden isn’t nearly as irritating as Kathy Lee Gifford but it was Christmas morning and we were high on chocolate and strong coffee.  Some toys would be assembled but in a family of readers, the books would distract us and soon all three kids would be in our rooms reading whatever soft cover book was in our stocking.  Since all three of us were up all night, it lead to a Christmas Day nap and some quiet time for Mom.

Then we would do something fun.  We went public skating one year, tobogganing on many of them, often we took Misty our dog for a walk along the Meewasin Trail and there was often friends who stopped by.  Once mom would make her initial proclamation of “no more chocolate until breakfast”, you would hear someone say it every time someone ate a candy, including her.

Eventually it was time for the Christmas dinner.  Mom had these crystal glasses that meant the world to her.  She would always warn us to be careful and it seemed like every Christmas she would break one in the weirdest of ways.  Even weirder was that even with brain cancer, she never broke many things except for those goblets.  The Bay sold them and we would always pick up the replacement glass for her on Mother’s Day but it was kind of a tradition, Mom breaking her prized goblets.  It wasn’t like she dropped them.  Something would fall out of a counter (which never happened) bounce and the ricochet into the goblet.  We would just sit there with a look that said, “I can’t believe that happened”.  Even weirder is that as kids, we never broke one and we were the ones who broke everything.

Then it was a night of talking together, playing crokinole, and drinking too much strong coffee.  

I hated crokinole.  Mom played it all of the time as a kid and would sit there and do all of these crazy trick shots and then go, “Jordon do you want to play?”  Let me see, getting humiliated by my mother who was a poor winner seems like a lot of fun.  She was undefeated for her entire adult life.  I was winless.  So I would play and get beat badly and then get taunted for losing.  I was so happy when Jolene and Lee were there and could be beat as well.  To be fair, my mom was insanely competitive and would accept any video game challenge we made to her.  She got as good as good as she gave.  Then we would wind down and make plans to take the tree down on Boxing Day.  Christmas always started the same (waiting for coffee to perk) and ended the same (waiting for more coffee to perk).

Taking the Christmas tree down on Boxing Day started because my great Aunt Beth spent every Christmas with us.  Aunt Beth never married and adopted Mom as her favourite niece and spent every holiday with us.  She would come down from Regina on the bus and stay for a couple of weeks.  We loved Aunt Beth but she was eccentric and lived alone too long.  She was also really short (that matters) and smoked a lot.  i used to bug her that she lit her last cigarette when rationing ended after World War II and then just lit one smoke of another since then.  It wasn’t that far from the truth.

Aunt Beth would come in the second week of December and so would the smell of Player’s Light cigarettes.  So to get the smell of nice pine Christmas Tree, our tree had to go up before Aunt Beth got here.  Which meant by Boxing Day, we were tired of the tree and Christmas decorations in general so it all came down.  She never realized the reason and I don’t think she cared that much either.  There was still cookies to eat and festivities to take part of.

So today is going to kind of be the same kind of day.  The boys aren’t awake yet but they will be upstairs soon.  My coffee is being made as I write this and I assume I will be joined shortly by Oliver and Mark (who will also be drinking my coffee)  We will have a nice breakfast together and then head downtown where we will take some photos of an empty and abandoned downtown core.  Mark, Wendy, Oliver and I have new camera gear to test out.  Someone has to feed Bridge City with fresh photographs. Then back home for a charcuterie board for lunch and maybe the kids will have a nap while Wendy cooks our Christmas dinner before spending the night goofing off and drinking too much coffee.

Hope your day is a good one.  Merry Christmas.

(tomorrow, the decorations come down)

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve.  It was a rare day for Wendy and I as we both had if off work.  We slept in for a bit and then I woke and was surprised that I wasn’t sick.  After a nice breakfast of Eggs Benedict and then taking the dogs out for a walk, we spend the rest of the day chilling out before heading meeting some friends for lunch at Alexander’s.  After some nachos, we chilled out a bit before heading over to Lee and Brittany’s for dinner.

Since it was Camdyn’s first Christmas, it was all about her.

We gave her a baby tablet, Oliver got her a cell phone, and Mark gave her a teddy bear that is the size of Oliver.  I’m seriously rethinking that gift.  She could get crushed by that bear.  Then again, in a fight with a giant monster, it will do quite well.

Teddy Bear vs. Giant Monster

The boys gave Lee and Brittany men’s and women’s Calgary Flames mugs.  Wendy and I gave Brittany a pizza stone and a signed copy of Amy Jo Ehlman’s book Out of Saskatchewan Kitchens. 

Wendy and I gave Lee a crate of dynamite inspired fire starter from Cabela’s.  Basically they are fire starters that look like sticks of TNT and come in a wooden TNT looking crate.  Unless I got him the wrong stuff and I actually got him dynamite.  If that is the case Evergreen could have a different look the first time he starts his fire pit.  Camdyn can use the giant bear as a protective barrier.

Along with Camdyn getting a teddy bear, we found Lee’s childhood teddy bear in a box in the corner of our basement.  It is over 30 years old, has seen better days but Wendy carefully sewed up Teddy and then got him a new outfit from Build-a-Bear.  So there will not just be one but two bears in their household, even if one is a greybeard.  Lee was so shocked that I think he almost cried when we gave him Teddy.  It was pretty sweet.

Lee wanted to get me a tripod but Amazon didn’t ship it in time.  Instead he gave me an gift certificate.  They also gave me a battery backup for my cell phone and a Pentax remote control for my camera.

They gave Wendy the main game and first expansion pack to Cards Against Humanity. The best part of the gift is that neither Lee, Brittany, or Wendy had realized how taboo it was.  They also gave hime a tea cup and tea from David’s Tea, a knife sharpener, and two books by Anne Lamott.  

They gave Mark an indoor basketball hoop, a book on the history of the NFL, a Denver Broncos toque (or knit cap for you American’s out there), and a violent PS3 game.

Oliver got a remote control dog, a Marvel posters, a Lego Batman alarm clock, and a Lego book/playset.

Now we get to head to bed and see what will happen on Christmas morning.  

Hope your evening was a good one.

Big turkey is ruining everything

The White House only pardon’s “white turkeys” because of the influence of “big turkey” on the selection process

After years of selective breeding, only one breed of turkey, the aptly named Broadbreasted White, remains in large-scale production in the United States. For about 30 years, it has been the breeding stock owned by the three major companies, Hybrid Turkeys of Ontario, Canada; British United Turkeys of America in Lewisburg, W. Va.; and Nicholas Turkey Breeding Farms, Sonoma, Calif. A blowzy specimen with short stubby legs, its disproportionate supply of white meat has come at the expense of taste and texture. It’s stupid to boot.

The joke about turkeys drowning in the rain may actually have some basis in fact. Glenn Drowns, secretary-treasurer of the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities, and owner of the Sand Hill Preservation Center in Calamus, Iowa, a preservation farm, is infuriated by the degradation of the turkey. ”The commercial guys say they have to keep the turkeys in buildings because they’d drown in the rain,” he said. ”It makes my blood pressure boil. Next year I’m going to raise some of them to see if they are that far gone.”
Because most Americans aren’t old enough to have eaten the old-fashioned turkey, they have no idea what they are missing. The rest of us just forgot over the years, lulled into thinking that new is improved. Tasting the four heritage turkeys against two Broadbreasted Whites, one of which was free range, reminded me why the Thanksgiving turkey was so eagerly looked forward to 50 years ago, and why, today, cooks have had to dream up dozens of ways of making it taste better.

The common ancestor for all heritage breeds is the wild turkey, native to these shores. Wild turkeys went from Central America to Europe with the first explorers. Then they were imported to North America by English settlers as the black Spanish turkey, which was bred with the wild North American turkey. The Standard Bronze was the result and the other breeds followed: the Narragansett from Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island; the Bourbon from Bourbon County, Ky., and the Jersey Buff from New Jersey.

Christmas Gift Guide for the Outdoorsman (and women) | 2014 Edition

In case you are shopping for the great outdoorsman, here are a list of suggestions for those who often prefer to outdoors rather than inside. Check out the other Christmas gift ideas that have been posted this season.

Left and Right Handed Slingpacks from MEC

Slingpack from Mountain Equipment Co-Op

All three of us have sling packs from MEC and they work as great daypacks.  They each have a water bottle, flashlight, notebook and pens in them all of the time.  When it is time to go, we toss in our phones, iPods, headphones, snacks and a compact camera and we are ready to go.  They are big enough to carry what you need yet small enough to bring along with you anywhere.  We really like them.

Pelican 1050 waterproof case

Pelican 1050 waterproof case

These are great camera/GPS/iPod cases. They are water proof, padded, floatable, and strong enough to take a lot of abuse in the back of your trunk or any backpack. While you may not use it when you head to the park, you will use them when you are packing for a trip and don’t want your iPod, camera, or phone to be crushed. They are pretty much indestructible which means that of all of the things you have to worry about, this isn’t one of them.

Vibram FiveFingers Komodo Sport Shoes

Vibram FiveFingers Komodo Sports Shoes

The typical human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution with 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments. Like the rest of the body, to keep our feet healthy, they need to be stimulated and exercised. The Vibram Five Fingers shoes are designed to simulate walking barefoot while protecting your feet like shoes do. If you have any questions, check out the reviews on Amazon.

Leatherman Skeletool CX

Leatherman Skeletool CX

Now you’re ready to lighten your load and boost your survival skills — with Leatherman’s Skeletool. At a mere 5 ounces the new, full-sized multitool keeps weight and volume to a minimum without sacrificing quality and true functionality, and that’s what the Skeletool is all about. Many multitools have multiple options, but they’re often heavier — and they’re loaded with more features than most people actually need on a regular basis. Conversely, pocket knives are light and streamlined, but they render themselves useless when the task calls for a more versatile tool. Enter the new Skeletool platform, offering minimal weight, compact size and endless capabilities. And with the Skeletool’s integrated, removable pocket clip, you can easily clip this tool onto a belt, a pack, or a vest — with no sheath or tote required.

Cammenga Lensatic Compass

Cammenga Lensatic Compass

This is the Rolls Royce of compasses. It has been used by U.S. troops, foreign militaries, law enforcement, and special forces for years. A total of seven Tritium light sources provide readability in total darkness for 10 years without external power or the need to “recharge” using a flashlight.

Sony HDR-AS100VR POV Action Video Camera with Live View Remote

If you are a cyclist, you want this.

Use the built-in GPS with the free PlayMemories Home software to track your speed and performance. Location, trail and speed information add more layers to your ability to analyze your performance that can be captured and displayed on your video.  Take a look.

GPS overlay on your video

The camera itself is splash proof but it does come in a waterproof case.  Unlike the GoPro, the Sony HDR-AS100 is image stabilized which means smoother video no matter how rough of ride you are taking.

Sony HDR-AS100VR

Polaroid Cube
Huge, out-of-the-box fun. In little more than 1 cubic inch. – Standing at just 35mm, the Polaroid CUBE is here to prove that the best things do indeed come in small packages. This tiny action camera supports Micro SD cards up to 32 GB, and is ready to capture your most exciting moments in full HD video or highresolution images. So if you’re living a life that’s fit for film, make the CUBE your constant companion. It is weatherproof and shockproof, and more than capable of handling anything you throw at it.
Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System
The Jetboil Flash cooking system utilizes the same efficient design as the now classic Personal Cooking System (PCS) but adds the additional convenience feature of an external temperature indicator. Designed to capture and focus heat more efficiently than traditional cooking systems, the Flash brings two cups of water to a boil in only two minutes. The lining also houses a color change window that alerts you to when the contents are hot. A sip-through lid further helps insulate the contents of the cooking cup and prohibits spills. The protective plastic bottom of the cup can be removed for use as a small bowl or measuring device.

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove

If the Jetboil Personal Cooking System isn’t what you are looking for, check out the MSR Pocket Rocket stove. The PocketRocket backpacking stove from MSR provides full cooking function in an incredibly efficient form. Barely noticeable in your pack, it delivers precision flame control from torch to simmer while the Wind Clip wind shield boosts efficiency in breezy conditions. The PocketRocket stove’s diminutive size is also the foundation of a solid emergency kit for home or trail.

Double Nest Hammock

Double Nest Hammock

The DoubleNest allows room for one, two, three, or however you decide to pack 400lbs. The DoubleNest seats more than one person comfortably and is essential for family adventures. The DoubleNest still packs down to the size of a grapefruit, so there is no excuse to be without your ENO hammock.

Outdoor Coffee Press

Outdoor Coffee Press

Now there is no reason to bring that horrible tasting Starbucks Via coffee with you when you go camping or hiking. Instead bring some fresh ground coffee or loose leaf tea with you and make some excellent coffee when ever you want with this outdoor coffee press. Of course you won’t bring a bean grinder with you on most trips but it gives you an idea of what it takes to make a good cup of coffee while on the road. Of course you need something to drink it from. You may want to check out some excellent stainless steel coffee mugs/beer mugs to drink from.

Zippo Hand Warmer

Zippo Hand Warmer

The Zippo Hand Warmer is a rugged, metal hand warmer with a sleek, thin design so it easily fits into your pocket. The hand warmer is virtually odorless (great for hunters) and stays warm for up to 12 hours. Plus, it’s reusable with Zippo lighter fluid and includes a convenient filler cup and warming bag. Whether you’re skiing, tailgating at the game, hunting, sledding, or enjoying any other cold-weather activity, keep a Zippo Hand Warmer in your pocket and keep your fingers toasty warm.

Garmin eTrex 20 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator

Garmin eTrex 20

Garmin’s eTrex GPS series offers reliable satellite navigation, making it a favorite of hikers, hunters, and geocachers. The eTrex 20 is equipped with a high-sensitivity GPS receiver, a 2.2-inch color display, and ships with a worldwide basemap with relief. Add a wide array of detailed topographic, marine, and road maps, and start mapping out your next adventure.

The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern

Black Diamond Orbit Lantern

Designed for ounce-conscious backpackers and climbers, the Black Diamond Orbit lantern packs 45 lumens of bright, non-glaring light in an ultra-portable package. A DoublePower LED (1-watt) works with Black Diamond’s dual reflector system and frosted globe to illuminate everything from tent-bound reading to pre-dawn racking. A collapsible, double-hook hang loop attaches to tent ceilings and tree branches alike. Mark and I both have one and they are simply amazing. They are highly rated on REI, MEC, and and are loved by all that use them. Whether you are a camper, hiker, or even a family who needs a safety light in the car, these are a must have.

Filzer UFO Light

Filzer UFO light

Alert vehicles and help keep track of your dog at night. The UFO light is designed specifically for runners, hikers and dogs. The light easily attaches to 1″ webbing, dog collars, clothing, etc… with a small carabineer. Five red LEDs put out highly visible red light in three modes – steady, flash and rotate. Its waterproof design makes it ideal for any weather.

Hydro Flask

It’s hard to get excited about a water bottle but Outside Magazine did.  Here is what they said about it.
Standing out among the dozens of hydration products that pass through our doors every year is a challenge. Hydro Flask made an impression with a next-day shipment of its insulated stainless-steel bottles, which arrived with ice inside. In summer. That functionality—which works equally well keeping liquids piping hot—paired with simple, good-looking design won us over.

Christmas Present 21

You can also find all of the rest of the 2014 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!  Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for Teenagers | 2014 Edition

What do you get for the teenaged boy on your Christmas list.  The easy way out is cash and gift cards.  We aren’t going to take the easy route out.  We are doing this the hard way and come up with a list that any teenager would love.

Asus MeMo Pad 7

$150 for a cutting edge tablet?  I’m okay with that.  The Asus MeMo tablet runs a 1.33 GHz Quad-Core Intel Atom processor, Android 4.4 KitKat, more than enough RAM to run the latest applications and 16 gb of storage for videos, music, and homework.  It also has a .3 megapixel front facing camera and a 2 megapixel rear facing camera

Asus MeMo Pad 7

While you are at it, pick up a case, Bluetooth keyboard, Micro SD card and speaker.

Pentax K-50 DSLR

We gave Mark my old Pentax K-x to him for his birthday and he loves it.  The advantage of Pentax over other DSLR’s is build quality.  The K-50 has over 80 water seals in it.  This means that the teen you are shopping for can take it far more places and adventures than other DSLRs.  The other advantage is the amazing price.  At under $500 (with a 18-55mm lens) it is one of the least expensive DSLR’s out there right now.

Pentax K-50 DSLR Camera

The PENTAX K-50 is a mid-level DSLR with fast, advanced functionality, all wrapped up in bold colors. Featuring specifications of a top level DSLR, enjoy a 16 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, fast continuous shooting at six frames per second, high sensitivity shooting up to ISO 51200, 100% field of view, innovative in-body shake reduction, and an advanced auto focus module with four optional focusing screens, not to mention the PENTAX-original weather-sealing. Also enjoy full 1018p HD video capture, and eye-fi card compatibility for fast and easy image sharing.

At the end of the day, you aren’t buying your teen a DSLR for them, you are buying it for the family time you will spend together shooting it.  This summer Mark, Oliver, Wendy, and I went for countless walks, hikes, and adventures together for no other reason than to shoot from photos and see what we could see together.

If you are wondering about available lens for Pentax, check out my guide to Pentax DSLR lens that I wrote this summer.

Ricoh WG-4 Digital Camera
If you have a smaller budget, this Ricoh WG-4 is a great adventure proof camera.  It’s waterproof, crushproof, and has a built in GPS to record where you are when you take the photo.  It has a quick f2 lens, 16 megapixel CMOS sensor.  It is the perfect option to take into the backwoods, on a long road trip, or just attaching to your pack for a day out.  Like all WG series cameras, it comes with a wide series of mounts so it can attached to your bike, car, or helmet.  Not only are you getting a great camera but with the mounts you are getting many of the capabilities that a GoPro offers.

Sennheiser HD201 Headphones

There is a good choice that your teen has an iPod or phone that plays music already.  The music is great but one overlooked thing is what do you play it on.  Sennheisser headphones are a great bet.  The Sennheiser HD201 Stereo Headphones prove to be a low priced alternative to high-end studio headphones.With great clarity, the Sennheiser HD201 headphones are the ideal entry into the world of powerful stereo sound. These excellent headphones also boast great attenuation of ambient noise and outstanding comfort at an affordable price.

Sennheiser HD201 Headphones

JVC Xtreme Xplosives Headphones
If you are on a budget (and who isn’t) this Christmas, here are some fabulous looking and sounding headphones by JVC at an affordable price.  They are for are for people who demand powerful, dynamic deep bass sound from their headphones which kind of describes every teenager I know.
The OontZ Angle
One of the most popular and wished for items on  Brought to you by Cambridge Soundworks, this Angle is the latest in a line of amazing and affordable speaker systems.  The Oontz Angle comes in many color options and is 5.3 inches wide, 2.7 inches high, and 3 inches deep. It weighs 9 ounces, which makes it a lightweight unit.  For $40 it provides excellent size, portability and most importantly, it sounds good.

Turcom Graphic Drawing Tablet 8 X 6 Inches

Turcom Graphics Drawing Tablet

Tursion is making tablets affordable for use by anyone, not just artists. This high-quality Tursion drawing tablet is priced just right, so everyone can enjoy the benefits of a graphic tablet. It includes several software utilities, such as PenSigner and PenMail, which allows you to use handwritten signatures, adding a personal touch to what is usually thought of as an impersonal medium. Easy to install and to use,

We gave one to Mark last year for his birthday and he has loved it.  It works with almost any kind of Windows XP/Vista/7/8 software has allowed him expand is skills and talents as an artist.

The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make
From Sean Covey, the author of the international bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, this bestselling follow-up book builds upon the legacy of the 7 Habits and shows teens how to make smart choices about the six most crucial choices they’ll face during these turbulent years.
The challenges teens face today are tougher than at any time in history: academic stress, parent communication, media bombardment, dating drama, abuse, bullying, addictions, depression, and peer pressure, just to name a few. And, like it or not, the choices teens make while navigating these challenges can make or break their futures.

Royal & Langnickel 104-Piece All Media Easel Artist Set

Royal & Langnickel 104-Piece All Media Easel Artist Set

Royal & Langnickel Sketching and Drawing Easel Set is a comprehensive 104 piece collection of artist materials ideal for the beginner, student, or artist. This set features a wide assortment of pencils, pastels, and paints fitted into a convertible, two-drawer chest that opens to reveal a third tray of product. The storage chest converts into a sturdy table-top easel. An outstanding collection of tools for your studio or an ideal gift for an artist or serious art student.

Acer Aspire E-11 11.6-Inch Laptop 

There is always going to be a debate between Windows Netbooks and Google Chromebooks.  The Acer Aspire makes a compelling argument for the Windows Netbook.  Check out these specs.

  • 11.6" HD Widescreen ComfyViewâ„¢ LED-backlit Display: (1366 x 768) resolution; 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Intel® Celeron® N2840 Dual-Core Processor 2.16GHz with Intel® Burst Technology up to 2.58GHz
  • Windows 8.1 with Bing
  • Intel® HD Graphics
  • 2048MB DDR3L SDRAM Memory
  • 32GB internal storage
  • Digital Media Card Reader – Secure Digitalâ„¢ (SD) Card
  • 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth® 4.0
  • Acer Crystal Eye HD Webcam
  • High Definition Audio Support
  • Two Built-in stereo speakers
  • 1- USB 2.0 Port
  • 1- USB 3.0 Port
  • 1- HDMIâ„¢ Port with HDCP Support
  • 3-cell Lithium-Ion Battery (2640mAh)
  • Up to 5-hours battery life
  • 2.84 lbs.

Acer Aspire E-11 Netbook

Another cool part of these Aspire E-11’s is that they don’t have fans so they are completely silent.

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

You aren’t just giving a gift when you give a telescope as a gift.  You are opening up the wonders of the universe.   All of Celestron’s PowerSeekers include a full range of eyepieces plus a 3x Barlow lens that provides an increase in viewing power hundreds of times greater than that of the unaided eye!

Tony Hawk Skateboard
Fender guitar and amp
If he wants to be a rock star, what better way to get him started than with a Squire guitar and amp by Fender?  It comes with an electric guitar, amp, bag, strap, cables, and picks.  Basically everything he will need to rock out in 2015.
With the Selphy CP910 Wireless Compact Photo Printer, celebrating your special memories has never been more convenient. Lightweight and compact in size, the Selphy CP910 is easy to take just about anywhere. But it’s more than just portable; it’s also loaded with features, like Portrait Image Optimize, which allows you to relive those cherished moments with beautiful and long-lasting borderless 4” x 6” photo prints. What’s more, it’s AirPrint enabled, making wireless printing from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch almost effortless. No drivers are needed! And Mobile Device Printing allows images on compatible Windows RT devices to be sent directly to the printer as well. Plus, with its new Access Point Mode, the Selphy CP910 allows you to directly connect your wireless camera or smart device without the need of a network.

Christma Wish Guides

You can also find all of the rest of the 2014 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!  Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for your Wife, Girlfriend & other Important Women in Your Life | 2014 Edition

Each year I put together some holiday and Christmas gift guides for the people in your life.  Wendy wrote the first one and here is my first one; a holiday and Christmas guide for the women in your life.

Wendy is hard to shop for.  She never makes a list until it’s too late and doesn’t really crave a whole bunch of things which makes Christmas (and birthday) shopping hard.  In case your wife is awesome like Wendy but hard to shop for, here are some Christmas gift ideas to consider.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant

The alluring Original Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant, crafted in 925 Sterling Silver. This beautiful design is set with 1 Heart Shape stone prong set , 1 stone prong set colorless Round Cubic Zirconia. This product measures 8 mm wide, 18 mm long and is a great looking while affordable necklace and pendant.

iPod Nano 16gb

Why would you get her a iPod Nano when she probably has a smart phone.  Two reasons.  Smartphones tend to fill up with apps and if you have a 8gb or even a 16gb iPhone, she may not have enough room to have much music on it.  The second reason is that she may have an Android or a Blackberry meaning that managing your music with iTunes is a pain in the neck.

Apple iPod Nano

An iPod Nano gives her 16gb of storage in an extremely compact package.  It may not do everything that her phone or an iPod Touch does but it plays her music really well at an affordable price.

Big Jambox

Wendy has always loved music and has always wanted a massive stereo system.  Since we have a small home, the dream has never come true.  Lucky for Wendy there are some excellent compact speaker systems as options. Here are a few of them.

I have traditionally recommended the Bose Wave home audio system.  It provides legendary sound, is $499 but has fallen behind the times.  It bugs me that even with the new version you have to add an optional and costly Bluetooth receiver to stream music wirelessly from your iPod.  Yet if the women you are shopping for still prefers CDs to iTunes, it is probably the best audio system you can get for her.

For the iPod/Android crowd, I am suggesting you get her a Big Jambox.

Jambox Big Jambox Speakers

The Big Jambox turns any mobile device (phone, tablet, media player, computer) into a portable, hi-fi sound system that wirelessly delivers amazingly clear, full audio at any volume.

Faux Mink Throw Blanket

Help keep her warm this winter with a faux fur blanket.  Perfect for outdoor, watching TV. Stay warm this winter and feel great with this faux fur throw. Unbelievably soft and plush. Dynamic decor piece to throw over a couch or chair, it serves as a fashionable, functional accent piece. Perfect blanket to cuddle up on a chilly evening without any of the guilt and cost of using real mink fur.

Olympus E-PL7 16MP Compact System Camera with 14-42mm Lens

Olympus PEN E-EL7 camera

I bought Wendy an Olympus PEN last year and she loved it.  Over the year we added a couple of lens (I recommend the Olympus 40-150mm, the Olympus 45mm f1.8 (Wendy’s favourite lens), the Sigma 19mm, 30mm and 60mm prime lens) a new ThinkTank sling bag, and some other gear.   The result was we took a couple of thousand photos over 2014 and had a great time together.

The advantage of a mirrorless camera system like Micro 4/3 system (which is used by Olympus and Panosonic) is the size of the cameras and the lenses.  It means in practical terms that you take this camera places you would not take a DSLR.  With 16 megapixel sensors, good (but not amazing) low light sensitivity (if you want great, you need a Sony A7s), you get amazing photos that you can enlarge to almost any size.

If you want something small but with a traditional DSLR form factor, take a look at the Olympus OMD E-M10 for $750.

Canon T5i with 18-135mm lens

If she is looking for more traditional DSLR, then look at the Canon Rebel T5i with the 18-135 lens.  She will be impressed at how simple it is to create breathtaking photos with ease. The incredible image quality and performance starts with an 18.0 Megapixel sensor and Canon’s DIGIC 5 Image Processor. 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.

You get full HD video, the ability to plug in a shotgun or lavaliere microphone, and access to the enormous Canon EF-S lens family.  You can get a kit with a 18-55mm lens but for the extra $200, the extra range of the 18-135mm lensis worth it.

Teardrop Terrarium
This is a fun gift.  It is an Air Plant with clear glass hanging terrarium wide with glass bottom. Kit includes pebbles, moss, glass globe and air plant.  The kit is a great addition to any room at any price.
Speaking of gardening…

The Gardener's Garden

The ultimate garden book – both a collection of gardens from around the world and a resource for those seeking inspiration on garden design and planting. Featuring over 250 permanent gardens by leading garden designers, horticulturalists and landscape architects, from the 14th century to the present day, and covering all key types and styles of garden, this well‐illustrated compendium combines images, text, key information and captions for each of the featured gardens, appealing to both amateur and professional gardeners, as well as garden designers.

Samsung Chromebook 

Samsung Chromebook

Samsung’s Chromebook laptop has been deemed by many to be a success. Lightweight, inexpensive and practical as everything operates off your Google Drive, the Chromebook is great for any career woman on the move.

Chromebooks are great if you are comfortable with using Google Apps but if she is the type that wants to do more with a computer, check out the Acer Aspire E-11 Netbook.


It runs Windows 8.1, has 2gb of RAM, and is totally silent as it is cooled passively.  No fans means no noise.  It’s only $200, runs iTunes, some games, Microsoft Office (or Open Office).  An amazing netbook for the money.

Jean Dubost Laguiole 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set

Jean Dubost Laguiole 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set is a great holiday gift for anyone who loves hosting a great dinner party and doing so in style.

This set of cheese service knives includes a spreader for soft cheeses like Montrachet a serving knife for Gruyere and Gouda and a cleaver for hard cheeses such as Parmigiano. Sparkling stainless steel handles carry the signature logo of the Laguiole ‘Bee’. A wooden gift and storage box completes this gourmet set.

Gold Pendent
Initial jewelry is all the rage. The 14k Gold Circle Disk Letter "A" Pendant showcases a simple yellow-gold design. Resting from an 18-inch cable chain is a gentle yellow gold disk. A capital letter is engraved in the middle of the disk, to personalize the pendant. The simple design is a jewellery box must-have for accessorizing a day-to-day look. A wonderful gift for the holidays.
Fast and convenient, the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker 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 flavor 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).  It’s the number one selling coffee press on Amazon for a reason.
Aeropress Coffee

Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

Wendy works full time and then has to come home to a household of two sons and me.  In other words she puts up with days that make mine seem like a meditation retreat.  Give your wife a break from the chaos with these noise cancelling headphones.  If you are on a budget, check out the Sony MDR-NC7 Noise Cancelling headphones for about $40 or JVC HANC250 Noise Cancelling Headphones for about $120.
Sennheiser HD202 Headphones
I leant Wendy my noise cancelling headphones for a flight to Winnipeg.  She never gave them back.  She will love a pair of great sounding headphones.

I’m a Mom…

I'm a Mom

She’ll love this mug.

Timex Women’s "Ironman Traditional" Sport Watch

Timex Women's Ironman Traditional Sport Watch

Wendy has sensitive skin and watches irritate her horribly.  So when I gave Wendy this Timex Ironman watch, she had some serious doubts over whether or not she could wear it.  A year later, she is still wearing it every day.  Because the watch and band are all one piece, it is an incredibly comfortable watch to wear.  Because it is from Timex, it takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. 

The R H Forschner by Victorinox Chef’s Knife features an 8-inch blade that is 2-inches wide at the handle. High carbon, stainless steel blade is hand finished at Victorinox in Switzerland by skilled craftsmen. A special tempering process is used to produce an edge that can be resharpened over and over again, so the knife can keep its original sharpness throughout the entire life of the blade.

Victorinox 8-inch Chef's Knife

If you are looking for an entire knife block set, check out the Zwilling J.A. Henckels 7-pc Knife Block Set for $120 which is almost $150 off.  The set includes an 8-inch chef’s knife, a 5-inch serrated utility knife, a 4-inch paring knife, and a 2-1/2-inch peeling knife, as well as a sharpening steel and a pair of shears. All components fit within an 11-slot hardwood block, which offers four extra slots for future knife acquisitions.  She’ll love it. You’ll love it.  You’ll pass them on to your kids.
It brews the perfect cup of tea every time.  It is the most efficient, simple and clean way to steep tea. Simply add tea and water at the correct temperature, then put the tea maker on your favorite mug to drain.
Teavana Tea Steeper
WKRP in Cincinnati
Like most people with a sense of humour, Wendy is a huge WKRP in Cincinnati fan.  Join everyone’s favorite radio DJs—the rockin’ Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) and the soulful Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid)—as they weave through the inner-office antics of the crazy WKRP staff; including the station’s program director Andy (Gary Sandy), indecisive manager Arthur (Gordon Jump), advertising executive Herb (Frank Bonner) and, of course, the station’s lovely receptionist, Jennifer (Loni Anderson). So sit back and enjoy the sound of uproarious laughter as you watch all episodes of this iconic series.
Of course the reason why it was so long of wait to be released was the hassle in obtaining the rights for the original music.  This set has 90% of the music in the set.  The missing music is the music industry being, well the music industry.
Hamilton 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.
I have a Nike+ Fueband and when I use it, it works great.  It has been supplanted in both men and women’s minds by the FitBit Flex activity tracker.  It tracks steps, distance, and calories burned and shows you how you’re stacking up against your daily goals. At night, it tracks your sleep cycle, helps you learn how to sleep better, and wakes you silently in the morning. Access your stats anytime on your computer, tablet or from leading smartphones – both iPhone and Android.
In the age of tablets, Kindles often get relegated in our minds.  If you are buying for a serious reader, there really is only one option and that is a Kindle.  Wired gave it’s predecessor the Kindle Paperwhite a score of 9/10 which is the highest score they have ever given.  Then they come out this year and say the Kindle Voyage is even better.
Kindle Voyage
Here is what you want to know: Yes, the Kindle Voyage is better than the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s thinner, faster, brighter, lighter, newer, has a better screen, has more memory (4GB vs last year’s Paperwhite’s 2GB) commands more magical elf armies, owns a Ferrari, and is nicer to your grandmother.

iRobot Roomba 880 Vacuum Cleaning Robot For Pets and Allergies

iRobot Roomba vacuum

The iRobot Roomba 880 is the ultimate high performance robotic vacuum cleaner. Featuring the revolutionary new AeroForce Performance Cleaning System and AeroForce Extractors, it’s proven to remove up to 50% more dirt, dust, hair, debris and harmful allergens from all floor types and is virtually maintenance free.

Of course the best part of this gift is that it saves you and her time, time that you can spend together.

If you are looking for cooking, baking, or ideas for the foodie, check out Wendy’s Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for the Cook which she posted over at The Cooking Blog.

The Christmas Gift Guides

So there you go.  I assume I have forgotten, many, many ideas so let me know what I have forgotten the comments below.  You can check out the other Christmas and holiday gift guides while you are at it.

Christmas Eve

After a long day of work, we spent Christmas Eve at Lee and Brittany’s place in Warman.  They had come by the house earlier and picked up the boys and the presents so all we had to do was go home and then drive out to their place.  We had a nice non-traditional Christmas dinner (some of that tomorrow) and then opened up presents.  The key to Christmas Eve is to eat quickly and no small talk (Lee famously said to Mark one year, “Less talking, more chewing”) so we can get to the presents quicker.  The tradition of the last couple of years has been to even put off dessert post Christmas present opening.


  • I gave Wendy a Fujifilm Finepix JX600 compact digital camera.  She has been looking for a new once since her Fujifilm Finepix J10 camera needed a desperate upgrade.  This one will let Wendy take better photos, HD video, and yet still be small enough to take with her wherever she goes.  It also features 3D shooting options which means I will be asking to play with it.  I also lucked out in that it has the same battery that I just got Wendy for her old camera for our anniversary.  A nice bonus for her.
Fujifilm Finepix JX600
  •  Times Ladies Ironman Triathalon WatchMark gave Wendy a ladies Timex Ironman Triathlon watch.  Wendy rarely remembers to put a watch on and is always taking it off.  The hope is that if we got her a watch she would love, she would actually wear it.  So far so good but it is early yet.
  • Oliver gave Wendy some earrings and a lightweight tripod so she can do some night photography.  Personally I think he just wants to stay up later and is using the tripod as an excuse to hang out with mom.  He also gave her a print of him and Mark out for a walk.
  • Santa Claus surprised her with an Olympus PEN ELP-2 interchangeable lens camera.  it was used but barely used.  Wendy has been looking at a Nikon J1, some Sony NEX series cameras and a Fuji X series camera but apparently Santa found her one with a 14-42mm lens.  I was a little nervous supporting a second lens family (yeah I know how funny that sounds) but there are some really affordable Micro Four Thirds lens that we can add that she will love.
  • The dogs partnered up with Santa and got her a 16gb memory card, a Crumpler One Million Dollar House camera bag, and a 37mm lens filter.  I think she liked the camera bag more than the cameras.  Story of my life.

Olympis PEN EPL-2


  • I gave Mark a Vivitar Action Camera.  He probably wanted a GoPro but I was on a budget and he is thrilled with it.  It comes with a headband, helmet mount, and bike mount.  Expect to see him doing things that will hurt himself soon on his YouTube account.  That’s quality parenting right there folks.
Vivitar Action Camera
  • Santa Claus stopped by and gave him a Sony Xperia J cellphone.   Mark has had two other smart phones, the Samsung Galaxy 550 and then last year we gave him a HTC Desire C and he has taken very good care of them.  He loves the Desire C but it is seriously underpowered and really slow running Android and would not run some apps he really likes.  The Xperia J should speed up his life a little bit. 
  • Wendy gave him some 100 watt 2.1 computer speakers while Oliver gave him some portable X-Mini speakers.
  • The dogs gave him a pen and notebook set.
  • Lee and Brittany gave him a set of Huskie Athletics sweats and hoodie.  He’ll never take them off.
  • Wendy and I gave him a Canon 28-135mm DSLR lens mug.  It’s the closest thing he is coming to a DLSR camera this Christmas.
  • Since he is doing some winter camping at school, we gave him a couple of pairs of wool socks.  He is going to need them.


  • I gave Oliver a set of walkie talkies and some 4×30 compact binoculars.  He was thrilled because Mark has a pair of binoculars and I gave a pair to Lee as well.  As for the walkie talkies, what kid doesn’t love walkie talkies.  Oddly enough Wendy is thrilled with them because they do Morse code.  I hear beeping in my future.
  • Wendy gave Oliver, Little Big Planet 2 which has less puzzles to solve then the first one which means he won’t be bugging Mark about helping him solve them.  Of course we also got a great family game as we got him Little Big Planet Karting.  It should be fun.
  • Mark gave him Lego Batman 2 for his Nintendo DS.  Oliver loves Batman and insists that Mark is Robin.  Mark isn’t so crazy about that.  We also got Oliver a Batman bobble head.  Something to inspire him with.
  • Santa Claus dropped off a boom box for his room along with some CDs.  Apparently Santa knows that Oliver loves chilling to music with Mark.
Memorex CD Player
  • Hutch got him an art set
  • Maggi got him a compact camcorder.  It’s only standard definition but if it was good enough to shoot Knight Rider in, it will be fine for Oliver.  He loves to make adventure movies with Mark so I can’t wait to see what he shoots.  The camcorder was being blown out at $10 and I tossed a 2 GB SD card in it.  At only 640×480 resolution, he should be able to record himself doing a “slow punch to the face” for days.  I guess I need to get him set up on YouTube (where he could be Mark’s second camera operator).
A $10 Vibe Camcorder


  • I gave Lee a full sized set of binoculars that should last him for decades.  Very similar to the ones that I have and similar to the ones my grandfather gave me.  The only thing that makes me sad is that they don’t come with leather hard cases like they used to (long before I was born).
  • The boys gave him a framed print of themselves being idiots while out on a walk.  It seems to sum both of them up so well.
Mark and Oliver Cooper at Arlington Beach in 2013
  • We also got Lee, Bobby Orr’s autobiography.


  • Wendy gave Brittany a small cast iron pan with ingredients to make up brownies
  • Since Wendy loved the griddle I got her last year, she gave one to Brittany as well.


Pentax f1.7

Canon 17-135 lens travel mug

I also got a Lowepro Classified 160 AW camera bag

LowePro Classified 160 AW camera bag

Well that’s enough from me tonight.  We are sleeping in tomorrow (as if) and then heading over to our friend’s Jerry and Gloria Reimer where we are enjoying Christmas dinner.  Then it is back to work on Boxing Day for Wendy and I.