Christmas for us started on the 23rd as we joined our good friends Gloria, Jerry, and Kristy for our traditional Christmas together. It was a bit different this year because of Gloria’s cancer but it was a fun night of exchanging gifts and hanging out. We gave some books (as is our tradition) but I gave Gloria a Sound Spa which should help her sleep while the boys gave her a plush blanket.
Because I like to make fun of Kristy, we gave her an Edmonton Oilers Snuggie. Because most of Kristy’s life is dedicated to a) staying warm and b) the Edmonton Oilers, she liked it.
Christmas Eve had Wendy working all day. This is the worst schedule she has ever had over a Christmas season and it hasn’t been a lot of fun for us as a family but that is the life of people working retail. I worked part of the day and then headed home to spend the rest of the day with the boys. We gave the boys two early gifts of some NHLPA hockey sticks so they could play some road hockey during the day. Of course it was freezing outside so instead of playing hockey, we just taped them up. While she worked, we packed up the Mazda and headed out to Warman where we spent the evening at Lee and Brittany’s place for a traditional Christmas supper of lasagna and fighting over who got the lasagna leftovers before opening gifts.
Lee is known to master such phrases as “less talking, more chewing” on Christmas Eve. While he loves lasagna, he loves presents more. In the past when Wendy was working, he would spend most of the day badmouthing Wendy and trying to convince Mark to open Christmas presents without his mom. He takes this whole Christmas gift opening seriously.
Of the delay in eating turned costly when Oliver was playing with Tika (Lee and Brittany’s dog) and fell nose first into the edge of the carpet. There was crying, rug burn, and blood all over the place. While Oliver’s new shirt paid a steep cost, all was okay. It wasn’t as if I didn’t expect blood, I just expected it over the lasagna.
Santa gave Mark a new HTC Desire C Android Smart phonewhile I got him a Fuji AV150 camera (and tripod). I had created a Instagram, Foursquare, and upgraded his Flickr to a pro account on Sunday. We made sure we had batteries, SD (and Micro SD) cards all ready to go. Now we have to download some apps which will mean some quality time on Google Play today. I gave him a 1932 Chevrolet Truck scale model to build, Oliver gave him some adventure and Star Wars blueprint books (and some Daytona 500 cologne). He also got a graphic novel story of Canadians in WWII as well as a book on how to create his own graphic novel
In his stocking he found a new watch, a big bottle of the worst cologne known to man, Brut 33 (Wendy wept tears of pain when I showed her the bottle) Mark also got some high quality headphones; both on the ear and in ear ones. The less I have to listen to 90s rock, the better.
Lee and Brittany gave him a Denver Broncos jersey with his name and number on it. Thank goodness Tim Tebow was traded before the season started. He was pretty excited with that. Almost as excited as Tim Tebow gets about everything.
He also got a Starbucks travel mug and gift card from myself. It’s a bit self-serving as he wanders down to The Lighthouse and takes me out for coffee. To keep all of his special memories safe, we gave him a small chest to keep some of life’s momentos.
All Oliver wanted was a pogo stick and I found him one from Santa on Amazon.com. I gave him a toy F-22 Raptor jet. I would have gotten his a F-35 toy but the price kept increasing until Stephen Harper told me not to get it for him. Mark gave him a rescue play set, a puzzle from the dogs, an Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber, and an Optimus Prime Transformer that talks. He is getting into hockey to I got him some mini hockey sticks and nets.
Lee and Brittany gave him a tricked out big wheel for Christmas. I immediately thought of this.
What’s scary is that I think Oliver would think that was a good idea.
His favourite gift by far was a Power Ranger that transforms into something else. He was quite jacked about it.
With the new iPod I gave Wendy for her birthday, I gave her a set of iHome speakers and some perfume. We got her an electric griddle and skillet (she asked for them), a new popcorn maker (which she was really excited about). Mark gave her a pink Zepco fishing rod which she was horrified of. Lucky for Wendy, the fishing is horrible in our part of Last Mountain Lake. We also got her some high quality over the ear and in-ear headphones. If nothing else she will be able to tune us out for Christmas. The dogs gave her some new knives and a kitchen scale. Not sure where they got the money to get those.
Lee and Brittany gave her a gift card for Dutch Growers which made her day. She’s out right now waiting for spring to hit.
I bought Lee a Leatherman Skeletool multitool and case. Mark got him Red Dead Redemption for the PS3, while Oliver got him a George Reed collector’s edition figurine. Lee and Mark got into an argument a couple of weeks ago where Mark called his uncle, “Uncle Glitter” which has kind of stuck. Mark got him some glitter stickers for his new iPhone 5. ”Uncle Glitter” didn’t seem to appreciate his nephew’s gift that much.
He tried to pull his knife on the Skeletool on Mark for bugging him but he couldn’t get it open. Once he got it open, he cut himself.
Brittany was given a nice fountain pen, two journals (one lined and one unlined), and an Indigo gift card. Because both Lee and Brittany are getting new iPhones, we tossed in some iTunes cards as well. Holding her Indigo gift card was Cooper the Bear which apparently has been a Sears mascot for years (a fact that I did not know). It just seemed to work well for us. Brittany is an english teacher and I just think an English teacher with a fountain pen is more intimidating. It was either that or do what the NRA is suggesting and that is to give her a firearm.
Wendy gave Brittany a soapstone statue of a couple from Ten Thousand Villages which I really liked. As much fun as it is to bug Lee, him and Brittany are a wonderful couple.
I wasn’t expecting too much but Wendy and the boys did a lot of planning and looking for good deals. Wendy gave me a trail GPS and a George Reed limited edition action figure, Oliver gave me a Toronto Blue Jays hat, Mark gave me Assasin’s Creed II and Red Dead Redemption. I also got a Leatherman Skeletool. To balance out my Tim Tebow action figure from last year, Wendy gave me a Peyton Manning action figure. Lee and Brittany gave me a remote control helicopter. It flies and crashes quite well around the house. Also because I don’t smell enough like David Beckham, I was given some of his cologne. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. To replace my old barbecue tools (that are showing some age), Wendy also got me a simple set of three barbecue tools which is all we really use.
The advantage to only periodically playing PS3 games is that I never own the new ones which means that Wendy can find me games for $10-$15 at Wal-Mart and it doesn’t matter since I haven’t played them.
I really had no more success than Lee in using my Leatherman today although no blood was spilled.
The photos can all be found here.
Today is being spent around the house setting up things, doing some reading, and then having a more traditional Christmas dinner. I had hoped to get get down to work but for the second day in a row, someone has swiped our power cords to the car which is frozen solid in this cold. We had planned to take a long walk downtown today with Mark’s new camera but as the song says, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. Hopefully your Christmas is a good one and you are enjoying the time with family and friends as well.
Every Christmas individual, organizations, and businesses ask shelters what they can do to help those that are homeless. It’s part of the holiday season. Long before people fought the crowds looking for Boxing Day sales, it used to be the day where people used to box up their food scraps and give them to the poor. While food scraps aren’t needed these days, there are many in Saskatoon with real needs this Christmas. Here are some ideas on how you can help.
In putting together a list of things that people want, you need to realize that many people have lost everything except for the clothes on their back when they end up in the shelters and often have been in this state for a long time. On top of that, many shelters are busier over the holidays as people come inside over the holidays or find that they can’t bear to stay where they are over. Toss in things like season affective disorder (the depression that many have over the holidays), separation from families and frustration over their state of housing, it’s a busy and difficult time for shelter providers and any help that people can provide is appreciated.
For many being in a shelter allows them get a hot shower and cleaned up. Because of the numbers of people needing the services, shelters tend to buy in bulk and in individual packages for ease of distribution. Some simple luxuries like a bottle of body wash, shampoo, or conditioner have always been warmly appreciated as we have given them out. People tend to feel better about themselves when they feel and smell clean.
In shelters, the razors that are given out are of such low quality that I refuse to accept thanks when I give them out. Single blade, double blade, it doesn’t matter as they are all horrible. Most men and women have to get two of them just to shave. There are good disposable razors on the market but what I suggest are the store brands sold by the department stores and pharmacies. They are higher quality and the replacement blades a lot cheaper. If you are inclined, toss in some shaving cream. It builds self-esteem and is another thing that help them as they take the steps towards finding employment, an apartment or just reintegrating back into society.
When the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban bought the team, he went out and bought the best towels that money could buy as he felt that a nice towel was a wonderful luxury. Visiting NBA players agreed as they took the towels from the Mavericks locker room and kept them despite their salaries. For most of the men and women that I work with in the shelters, none of them have a towel which means that on top of it being a constant need, it gives them something that they will need both in the shelter and when they move out on their own.
Many of the men that are in shelters are trying to work to get back out on their own. Which in the winter means a lot of work outside. While many don’t have a lot of job skills, they head down to an temporary labour place which means a lot of jobs which are out of the cold. Work brings in money but also allows a lot of them to prove themselves. Things like winter gloves, toques, warm socks, insoles, hard warmers, or a fleece to layer are critical in working that first winter job and keeps them going until they get that first paycheck. I am always surprised to look back and see for many men, their pathway to housing started with a donation of winter work gear at Christmas.
Along side of the winter work gear, I include an insulated travel mug and a thermos. It’s hard to spend a day working in Saskatchewan winters and when men have been given these in the past, they talk about what a difference it makes on the job site.
You also have the essentials which are often underwear and socks. While Saskatoon is generous with it’s donations to shelters with clothes, few donate underwear and socks because we tend to wear them out and toss them out. For 90% of the people that come into the facility I work at, they need socks or underwear, especially in winter.
Being homeless is hard anytime of the year but even harder over the holidays. In all of your giving this year, consider those that have nothing. It could be the start of something big. Just remember that before you go out and buy, call the shelter you want to give to, they will give you more refined list of ways you can help.
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. More coming soon.
Fujifilm FinePix XP50 $128 | The FinePix XP50 is outstandingly durable. It’s waterproof to a depth of 5m and can capture both movies and still images underwater. The camera’s casing will withstand shocks or drops from a height of 1.5m, while cold environments are also no problem for this rough and ready device. The FinePix XP50 can withstand temperatures down to -10°C and dust is never a problem, with all the camera’s access points specially sealed for ultimate protection.
Straight from Ned Flander’s Leftorium, the MEC Left Handed Slingpack $21 | Wendy has had a sling pack for years and just about jumped for joy when I told her that there was a left handed version available. She may have actually wept a tear or two.
Pelican 1050 waterproof case $18.68 | 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 $70 – $130 | 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 $80 | 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 $88 | 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.
Garmin Edge 500 Cycling GPS $249 | Sharpen your cycling performance with Edge 500, a lightweight GPS-based cycling computer for performance-driven cyclists. Loaded with data, Edge 500 tracks your distance, speed, location and elevation with high sensitivity GPS. Add an ANT+ compatible heart rate monitor, speed/cadence sensor or compatible power meter for a finely-tuned analysis of your ride.
Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System $99 | 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.
If the Jetboil Personal Cooking System isn’t what you are looking for, check out the MSR Pocket Rocket stove $39 | 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.
Cabin: Two Brothers, Five Acres and a Dream in Maine by Lou Ureneck $17 | Confronted with the disappointments and knockdowns that can come in middle age-job loss, the death of his mother, a health scare, a divorce, Lou Ureneck needed a project that would engage the better part of him and put him back in life’s good graces. City-bound for a decade, Lou decided he needed to build a simple post-and-beam cabin in the woods. He bought five acres in the hills of western Maine and asked his younger brother, Paul, to help him.
Double Nest Hammock $65 | 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 $40 | 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 $20 | The Zippo Hand Warmer is a rugged, metal hand warmer with a high-polish finish and 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 $168 | 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.
Hennessy Hammock Expedition A-sym $143 | Next generation of Hennessy Hammock’s most popular model with all the key features including full velcro entrance seal, mesh pocket on ridgeline and webbing straps to protect the bark of trees. The rain-fly is polyurethane coated polyester ripstop or silicone impregnated nylon and may be tilted to any angle, rolled up above, removed or used separately. The No-See-Um mesh and hammocks fabric will deflect wind to provide a calm space inside. Large area of No-See-Um netting to provide ventilation and keep insects outside the hammock. When properly sealed, the entrance design also makes sure no bugs get into your hammock. All of this means that you can sleep almost anywhere.
The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern $25 | 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 Amazon.com 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 $8 | 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.
If I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.
Wendy put together a Christmas gift guide for the cook (or foodie) in your life at The Cooking Blog. If you are shopping for someone that loves to cook or bake, make sure you check it out. All of the holiday season’s Christmas gift guides are being posted here so if you are shopping online or are just looking for some gift ideas, the site can help.
As is the tradition around here, I generally liveblog the day to save it for posterity. (2009| 2008 | 2007| 2006 | 2005 | 2003). I didn’t feel like doing that today so instead I am going to play around with my Kodak Zi8 camera and shoot some video of my day. I have a video project at the Centre and I need to figure out some lighting issues anyways so why not kill two birds with one stone.
Before I was really awake today, Wendy, Mark, and Oliver woke me up and gave me a couple of birthday gifts.
- Ollie :: Bushnell BackTrack GPS
- Mark :: Ultimate IMAX DVD collection
- Wendy :: A new daypack
- Maggi :: Energizer head lamp
Thanks everyone. The IMAX DVD collection has Fires of Kuwait which was narrated by Rip Torn. I realized this morning that I had vowed to name one of my kids Rip Torn and now that chance is gone. Well I don’t know if the chance is gone but I asked Wendy if we could have another kid for the sole reason of naming it Rip Torn and it wasn’t a warm look I got back.
Wendy came by later and gave me The Gamble by Thomas Ricks. I read his book Fiasco and found it to be one of the best books I had read in years. It will be interesting to see if The Gamble is as good as it’s predecessor. She also gave me two Moleskine notebooks, one large and one small.
Around coffee time my colleague Micheala was holding Oliver. Now for those of you who remember, Wendy and I have babysat Micheala’s daughter and her and Mark get along like brother and sister. Micheala has also managed to spend a couple of Christmas’s with us. She is also Mark’s arch nemesis at Guitar Hero. Oliver’s loyalties obviously lie with Mark as he head butted Micheala pretty hard as the video shows.
Good job Ollie.
After work we joined some friends at the Konga Cafe. While others had some curried goat, I had the excellent spicy peanut shrimp. If you have never eaten at the Konga Cafe, it is amazing. It was spectacular up until Wendy had them sing me happy birthday. I don’t blush often but I did tonight.
We retired to home and fired up the DVD player and watched Mark Twain’s America. First of all, Mark mispronounced Twain as Twan so we have been calling him Mark Twan all night to his chagrin, secondly, that is one horrible IMAX movie we just watched. I am glad that wasn’t the only one that came in the box set.
Wendy and I have been talking about vacation plans in 2010. We are starting now because 2009 was a vacation debacle. Three of the four extended times away I had to come into work. It wasn’t so much works fault but staff were sick or injured and we didn’t have enough staff at the time to make things work.
This year I have some structural changes that I am initiating that should make our structure look less like a deck of cards and I can get away without being under stress or putting people under stress (or at least compensating them to be under stress).
The only firm dates we have booked at for the 50th Anniversary of Arlington Beach (and the 100th Anniversary of the Arlington Beach House) which should be interesting. I’ll be honest, the best part about Arlington Beach is the amazing quiet. I am told that we are in the quietest part of Arlington Beach but it doesn’t get much louder wherever you are. It should be a little noiser that week in July but on the flipside, we get to see a lot of friends.
The other place I really want to go is to Johnston Canyon with Wendy and the boys this summer. We have been talking about this for a while and we are thinking of stopping in Drumheller so Mark can check out the Royal Tyrrell Museum and I want to check out an abandoned coal mine outside of Drumheller.
Then the idea is to push through Calgary, see some friends and then head to Banff for a day of hiking and exploring before tackling Johnston Canyon the next day. I am tempted to tempt fate and try doing this in September when the weather is still nice (hopefully) and the crowds are a lot less.
Mark has never seen the mountains before so this would be a great time to teach him that hills are not mountains and he should never call Mount Blackstrap, “Mount Blackstrap” and keep a straight face while doing it.
I am trying to convince Wendy that we need to go Victoria this spring but we’ll see how that goes.
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 Christmas gift ideas category if you are looking for other Christmas Gift Guides.
Straight from the Leftorium, the MEC Left Handed Slingpack. Wendy has had a slingpack for years and just about jumped for joy when I told her that there was a left handed version available. She may have actually wept a tear of joy.
Topeak Alien III Mini Folding Bicycle Tool :: 25 function folding tool with bag will keep you biking all day long, even if your body won’t want you to.
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. They are pretty much indestructible which means that of all of the things you have to worry about, this isn’t one of them.
While this cycling computer/GPS by Garmin may be out of your price range, the Cateye Wireless Bicycle Computer displays speed, max speed, average speed, trip distance, 2nd trip distance, total distance, elapsed time, and a clock for a very affordable price with a big screen for easy viewing.
Leatherman Wave Multitool with Leather Sheath :: The most popular full-size Leatherman tool has been upgraded with larger knives, stronger pliers, longer wire cutters and all-locking blades. The pliers have been redesigned to withstand more than double the previous squeezing load. For about $20, you can get a Leatherman Kick.
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. In case you have never made coffee with a coffee press, check out the definitive guide to making good coffee by Derek Powazek. 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.
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.
Coleman Aluminum Cookset :: It’s a four piece cookset for under $9 on Amazon.com. They weigh almost nothing and have some good reviews. While they won’t replace your cookware at home. Coleman has a non-stick set as well. If you want something stainless steel, Texsport makes a set for under $14.
I already mentioned this Pathfinder watch from Casio. Is there anything this watch can’t do? It includes a digital compass, altimeter, barometer and thermometer. It’s altitude measurement up to 10,000 meters in the air and 100 meters under water. Another great watch by Casio is quite a bit less expensive is the Casio Men’s Digital Compass Twin Sensor Sport Watch which goes for $50 and has a compass and thermometer. I am still a fan of Timex Atlantis 100 watches which you can give with the stainless steel or the more traditional polyurethane strap. For those of you who are Timex Ironman fans, don’t overlook their latest reincarnation.
All three seasons of Survivorman on DVD. You can order them from the Les Stroud Productions store. Season 1 | Season 2 | Season 3. We have all three DVDs and they are a lot of fun to watch. You can also order them from Amazon as well. Season 1 | Season 2 | Season 3. In case you just want to see how Les Stroud survives in the American wilderness, you can order this DVD as well.
In case you want to take some photos while you are out in the wild, you will want a Camera Pod. I recently ordered one and have come to love it. Despite being made in Canada, Amazon.com won’t ship them here and so you can order them from Les Stroud Productions or get them from The Pod.ca. If you are in the United States, you can get them from Amazon.com. You may also be interested in this Pedco Lightweight Camera Tripod.
While we are talking about Les Stroud and Survivorman, you may want to consider his book, Survive!. While it isn’t on Amazon.com, there is another edition with full color photographs and the ultimate edition comes with a DVD as well but the paperback can be picked up at Amazon.com.
Bushnell BackTrack GPS :: The Bushnell Backtrack- Never Get Lost Again with the easiest to use personal location finder for around $50. Just mark the location and BackTrack will help you get back. Use it at the mall and stadium parking lots, at the festival, the park, for travel or your next outdoor adventure. Wired has a quick real world review and it looks like Cabela’s is one of the few places you can get it in Canada.
The Jetboil Personal Cooking System :: Everything you need is stacked and stored inside the 1.0 liter cooking cup. The system lights with the click of a button and within two minutes provides two cups of boiling water for cocoa, coffee, instant soup or a gourmet freeze-dried meal. The newly designed burner secures the igniter, protecting it from bumps along the road. Flash is designed to be one of the safest cooking solutions out there. The cooking cup clips onto the burner, preventing accidental spills, and the fuel canister tripod ensures overall stability. The insulating cozy has a color-changing heat indicator that signals when contents are hot.
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.
Update: 2010 Christmas Gift Ideas for All of the Men in Your Life by Wendy is now online.
I do most of the Christmas shopping in our house which leaves Wendy to get my gift. I generally update my Amazon.com wishlist and use their universal wish list button to create on central wish list for her and Mark. Our goal is to be done Christmas shopping by December 1st every year and we finished everything up last week so we are good. Since I started posting the Christmas Gift Guides, people have asked me how many things I was asking for Christmas and the answer is I don’t want that many things but here is a short list of things I asked Wendy, Mark, Oliver and Maggi to get me for Christmas. Since they are done their shopping by now, I feel fine in posting this.
In case none of these gifts strike a chord with you, check out my Christmas Gift Guide for the Emotionally Distant Father.
A new Swiss Army knife :: I bought one for my groomsmen and myself from MEC 12 years ago and it is showing it’s age and needs to be replaced. This year might be a good year to do it. While I really like my multi-tool, a lot of days, I just want a pocket knife in my front pocket. I still have the worn out pocket knife that my grandfather had and a pocket knife in my pocket not only is handy but reminds me of him.
I couldn’t help but notice this Pathfinder watch from Casio. Is there anything this watch can’t do? It includes a digital compass, altimeter, barometer and thermometer. It’s altitude measurement up to 10,000 meters in the air and 100 meters under water. For a lot less money, this version from Casio has a thermometer and digital compass in it.
I am still a fan of Timex Atlantis 100 watches which you can give with the stainless steel or the more traditional polyurethane strap. Timex also has put out these really nice looking NHL team watches. Not that I am biased but I think this one looks the best.
This is more for the cabin but I thought these dynamite fire starting sticks from Cabelas were a lot of fun. Though the contents of this sturdy wood crate will not move mountains, they will start your fireplace. One look at the realistic “dynamite” crate will have family and friends looking twice. Each cedar wood crate contains 20 fire-starter sticks. They are made of paraffin and sawdust for a long, hot burn. Each stick will burn approximately 30 minutes setting ablaze even the most stubborn wood. Plus, Cabelas sent me a $20 gift certificate a months ago because I responded to a question on Twitter for them and I need to spend it on something.
Snowshoes and Solitude :: We are a big fan of the show Survivorman around the house but one of the questions I always have is how we he do if his isolation lasted longer than 7 days. According to some friends who have seen the DVD, Snowshoes and Solitude goes a long way in answering that question and I am told it is worth watching and owning.
Survive! by Les Stroud :: This is a huge best seller in Canada and is by the creator of Survivorman. It’s a gift not only for me but will be fun for years to come as I hike with Oliver and Mark.
The Pod :: I have a camera and about four tripods. This is a great addition to the list because it is what happens when you combine a camera mount with a bean bag and it’s a lot easier to pack along on hikes.
Saskatchewan Roughriders: Welcome Sign :: If I get this, I plan to hang it in the cabin but it would also look good at home. I also am hoping for a Saskatchewan Roughriders water bottle and a Saskatchewan Roughriders magnet. The water bottle is for our house. The magnet is for the Reimer’s front door which they painted Rider Green while at the same time still being Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans.
Harmonica :: While I still can play the alto saxophone (or as I and Homer Simpson prefer to call it, the Saxomaphone, I really don’t have the desire to get the rust off and I never learned to play by ear. The other night I suggested to Wendy, “I want to play the harmonica.” which threw her for a loop. After waiting for the punch line, she asked me why I would want to. At least it’s not the bagpipes.
The SAS Survival Handbook :: Mark and I are planning to do some hiking this summer and I think it would be fun to teach him some of the stuff found in this book and Les Stroud’s book Survive!. Mark loves watching Survivorman and I think we will have a blast learning this stuff together. Plus, Mark has already said he was going to eat a grasshopper kabob after watching this episode of Survivorman and wants to learn how to make a fire to cook them on.
NCAA 2010 for the PSP :: While I love the NFL, there is something about college offences and the ability to run a triple option attack is fun. Plus, I now know that Notre Dame can’t stop it. That being said, Madden 10 would be pretty cool and I can see if I can do more with JaMarcus Russell than Tom Cable can.
LittleBigPlanet for PSP :: I was over at my brother Lee’s place and he has it for the PS3. Mark was enthralled, Wendy had fun and even Lee was enjoying it. It looks fun, Mark will borrow the game, and I can see Wendy killing some time with it. Good enough for me.
I couldn’t help but notice these great customizable Denver Broncos shirts from NFL Shop.com.
I am not a big Bocce ball kind of guy but I know we would have a lot of fun playing this as a family at the cabin. It may in the end be a better Father’s Day kind of gift because of the weather in Saskatchewan, if you live in a warmer climate, it may be a fun gift for your father.
There you go, it’s not a big list but it doesn’t really matter what I get for Christmas but I thought I would post it to give some ideas in case you know of someone who is as insane as I am.
Well Mark brought home his report card and when I joked that he was going to be in grade three again, he wept (and I felt horrible). So I quickly assured him not only did he pass but he did well. The truth is that despite having a horrible year at school, his marks were really quite good and I am extremely proud of him. On top of doing well in school this year, he got his yellow belt in karate last week. He spent weeks working on his technique and form and I was glad for him that he got it before the summer. I don’t know if I feel any safer as the father of a yellow belt but the coffee table trembles when he walks by.
The bad part of the day was in talking to the parents of one of Mark’s friends. They are moving him to Caswell School next year after he was badly beaten (it seemed to fall into the category of an asault) by yet another violent kid that was in Mark’s class. His dad saw the attack but was too far away to stop it. Their other children have experienced it as well this year. I don’t blame them for doing it. We spent most of the year walking Mark to and from school but then again, so did they and it still happened.
For Mark, he finished the day with his karate summer barbecue. Everyone chows down quickly on some hot dogs and then they pull out Super Soakers and shoot each other until ocean levels have gone down significantly. Lee left his ice core Super Soaker at the house when he moved out and so Mark froze it and took it over as a backup weapon. I could hear them yelling and laughing from a block away tonight. When he walked in he said, “I need dry gitch” which just about sums up his evening.
His summer is being spent with us at the lake and he is going to Beaver Creek Camp. Their four day camp is about perfect for heading to camp for the first time, some of his friends are going, and it’s pretty close to the city if it doesn’t work out. On top of that, I have gotten to know and appreciate the camp directors through work and they will take good care of him.
I have vacation booked for the last week of July which I think is my first full week off work since I went to the Bahamas in 2007. My boss looked dazed and confused as she signed my vacation request. We are heading to the lake and then to Mosaic Stadium to watch the Saskatchewan Roughriders beat the Edmonton Eskimos. In light traffic we are only an hour away from Mosaic Stadium.
I am going to take a week off in August as well. I imagine that will be spent out at the lake as well. Wendy will be working so part of the plan is for me to take Mark and Oliver out to the lake and let her chill out while not working. Between the three of us, we should manage okay without her but you never know.
Whatever happens, I hope it is a good summer for the family. It’s been a while since we all unwound together.
Around here it is a four day long weekend which is nice. Mark is off school for a week and I have had two additional shifts this week already so I am looking forward to some time off.
As is tradition about the house, we are taking in the Draggins Rod and Custom Car Show at Prairieland Park (previous year’s photos: 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005) and then heading up to the cabin to do some painting and tearing out three interior walls and to hang some blinds. The weather up at the lake is supposed to be nice and with the new heater, we should be okay over the night. The new wall-less cabin will be a lot more open and bright. The old walls weren’t even close to being a sound barrier so it won’t make any difference for Mark and Oliver sleeping. Mark likes the idea of it being more open and in a couple of years we will have a loft built into the cabin and Mark can sleep upstairs.
We’ll be back for Easter Sunday in the city and then I hope to come in on holiday Monday to work through some paperwork and enjoy some uninterrupted time at my desk while the rest of the Centre is closed.
I hope you have a great holiday weekend.
I haven’t done a mailbag post in a long time but there was over 50 e-mails from people about Mark being bullied and just over 93% and all of the comments were supportive of Mark and how Wendy and I handled it.
Most of you sent in your own stories of being bullied or stories of others being bullied and how horrible it was. Some of you told me to pass on your stories to Mark if we wanted to and we forwarded them along to Mark’s e-mail account.
A bunch of you wanted to know how Mark being in karate influenced his decision and if it has been a good experience for him. Unlike the evil dojo in Karate Kid or the guy in Napolean Dynamite, Mark’s karate instructor does a good job of always emphasizing to the kids the importance of walking (or running) away from violence. They are to defend themselves only as a last resort and even then it is to defend themselves so they can get away.
Mark takes that pretty seriously. Instead of making violence worse, my gut feeling is that the more kids that take part in something like this, the less bullying there would be. Of course the bigger issue is what is going on at home.
There has been some feedback on what is happening with the contextless links. There has been some plugins to make del.icio.us look prettier and I will use them as soon as I find some time. I realized that they are being double posted in my RSS feed (thanks for letting me know) and that is stopping as well. A better reading experience is coming soon.
Of course my other option is to keep all of the links in the sidebar and keep the main column just for new content. In other words look for some different versions of content coming your way soon.
I was asked how Wendy and I came to the $100 budget that we set for ourselves each Christmas. It’s easy, we chose a number and we stick to it. We buy for Mark, Oliver, Lee, and as you can see by the photos, for the Reimers and our friend Kristi. We also give out some other gifts or cards to friends but that isn’t a significant outlay in cash.
The $100 for Wendy this year is broken down into $40 for a gift from me, $20 each from Mark and Oliver, and $20 from the dog. (gift giving from the dog is a family tradition) We can go over the $100 but not unless we both agree on it and there is cash to spend. Our budget for Lee is similar although he tends to give big gifts back to us.
The rule of thumb in the house is that all Christmas shopping has to be done by November 30th for everyone else other than Wendy and I. It stops the impulse buying. Last night we ran into Wal-Mart looking for some gloves (I hate losing gloves when it is -30 out) and I saw a dozen things that Mark would have liked. I love giving gifts but there is a time when you have to say no and for us, it is November 30th.
A lot of IM’s about what we do at the Centre for Christmas. First of all it is busy on Christmas as we find that guys who are couch surfing are often kicked out at the holidays. Christmas shopping is done in the fall and we use a company called Bargain’s Group and we buy bulk from them. They work with a lot of Salvation Army shelters and other agencies similar to us so their sales people are quite helpful. Basically the process is that I start looking online for gifts, I show them around to the staff and get input and we do that until most of us go, “Cool!” and then we order that one. Bargain’s Group staff calls me back and gives me some ideas of stuff that they know are coming in that are similar. It takes a bit of time but I have to admit, it is a nice part of the job.
On Christmas Eve we have an early supper and some platters are brought in for the guys later that night. On Christmas morning there is just food being prepared all day. There is good coffee made fresh in the kitchen and lounges and we will have a variety of other drinks and sodas available. We have two television sets going. One will have Christmas movies and family comedies while the other television will have some actions movies. Right now we are thinking of showing the Bourne Trilogy and the Die Hard series but that will have to be decided. We also have had a broken bubble top hockey game donated which we fixed (thanks Costco!) and someone dropped off a broken fooseball table which is being fixed as well. I am also ordering a soft tipped dart board for the dining room. If we can figure out some prizes, we will have an inaugural Christmas Day dark tournament.
Around 10:00 a.m. the guys get their gifts. From then on they can sleep, watch television or eat so much we have to roll them out of the dining hall.