Category Archives: holidays

41

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 Amazon.com 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.

Mark

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.

Oliver

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.

Wendy

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 Amazon.com 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.