Category Archives: Life at the lake

Happy 14th Birthday Mark!

While the rest of the world celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday this weekend, we are celebrating Mark turning 14 at the cabin.

He has been saving up for a DLSR camera for months.  When I upgraded my Pentax K-x, he thought I traded it in for a new camera.  Instead I took it upstairs and have been saving it to give him for his birthday.

Pentax Kx DSLR camera

After having the camera’s sensor cleaned, I bought him a new 16 GB memory card and cleaned all of the lens up perfectly (if you don’t have a Lens Pen, you are doing it all wrong).  

Wendy and I had bought him a a new Roots sling camera bag and placed the camera in along with some of my older lenses.  Along with the camera, I gave him this 18-55mm lens that came with the camera, a really sharp manual 50mm lens, a Pentax 100-300 lens, and a Takumar-F 28-80mm manual lens (that to be honest, really sucks) but it will give him a macro to play with.  I have an older Sigma 70-210 lens that I may give him as well but I am awaiting a replacement for it.  Until then he can borrow it.

We also tossed in one of those Eneloop battery chargers and some amazing Eneloop XX batteries (best recyclable batteries on the planet) and a National Geographic magazine

Mark and his Pentax K-x

To celebrate his birthday we are heading north from the cabin for a long nature walk along the shores of Last Mountain Lake where we will hopefully get some shots of some birds and someone can test out his new camera.  I expect you will see some photos of the day as soon as we get back into the city.

Mark blogs about his birthday here.

How to grill up the perfect steak

Over at the cabin blog, I put together a guide to grilling up the perfect steak.

Cuts of steak

I am ashamed to admit it but until an intervention at Le Beefteque in Toronto I used to order and cook my steaks until they were well done.  No marinade, no prep.  We just slapped them on the barbecue and overcooked them.  That meant that I wasn’t really a big steak fan as who likes to eat overcooked beef.  

A couple of years ago I finally got serious about how to prepare and cook a steak.  It starts with the right marinade, a Jaccard meat tenderizer, cooking it perfectly, letting it rest and so on and so on.  

This year I finally got my act together wrote it all up in one post.  Let me know in the comments if I have missed anything or have anything wrong.

The Staycation

A couple of weeks ago I realized that I hadn’t taken any vacation days in 2011.  I have three weeks and over a week of flex time to use so I decided to take some this fall.  With Mark playing Kinsmen Football, I can’t really get away or he doesn’t get to practice so instead of getting to the cabin, I stayed in Saskatoon.  The plan is to go to the cabin this weekend for Thanksgiving.  Arlington Beach does a huge fall/Thanksgiving supper which is great and we’ll eat well out there.

The week started with hanging out with Jared and Kathy Siebert who moved out from the GTA.  Having a denominational stooge around is occasionally useful and it will be fun to have Jared, Kathy and their kids in Saskatoon.  Somewhere in our conversations with them Jared said that he wanted to clear out some trees around his house so on Monday I went logging.  I took over our chainsaw and we cut and cut and cut and we were still cutting the same horrible tree.  It had about 50 large branches coming from the ground and I think it was regenerating itself as fast as we were cutting it.  When we were about halfway done, Wendy and Kathy came out and said there was a lot more light coming in the bay window (why do people plant trees in front of bay windows?)  We also managed to cut down two cedars that were a couple of stories tall.  Both went down pretty much as we intended which kind of freaked us out.  I honestly figured, Jared, myself, or a tree would be going through a window.  In honour of my new skill I am growing a lumberjack beard and am wearing more plaid.

I also managed to chat with Cam Broten.  Most of it was off the record but it was also a good discussion on the issues in my own riding.  While Cam has been campaigning pretty hard for a while, I haven’t seen any signs of the Saskatchewan Party candidate in my travels.  Campaigns matter but I can’t see this riding going to the Saskatchewan Party.

The highlight of Mark’s week was practicing with the Saskatoon Hilltops on Thursday night.  Mark came home bloodied, bruised, muddy and in a bit of pain but really enjoyed himself.  The Hilltops ran them through the same drills they ran with the Hilltop coaches and players giving tips and yelling encouragement.  To be honest Mark was relieved.  As a 4’10” receiver, he was at a loss on how to get open against a 5’10 defensive back who is taller, stronger, and faster than he is.  The most important thing he learned was the intensity that the Hilltops practice with.  I remembered how cool it was when a Saskatchewan Blade would come to my hockey practice but actually practicing with the Hilltops on their field was amazing for all the kids.

We are headed out to the cabin on Saturday after Mark’s football game in Martinsville.  He is done at 3:00 p.m. and I hope to be on the road by 4:00 p.m. and be at Arlington Beach for a late supper time.  Lee and Brittney are coming up on Sunday for the big Thanksgiving dinner with family, the Sieberts and about 300 other people.  Wendy doesn’t have to cook, I don’t have to do dishes so we all win.  I bought Mark a great flashlight and a headlamp this week with the intention that him and I are going to go for a late night hike.  If I don’t post here at all next week, there is a chance I was eaten and killed.  Check with Wendy.  I am back to work on Tuesday.  Not that motivated to be back but I have another couple of weeks to take before the end of 2011.

Gazebo RIP

On Tuesday night a violent wind ripped through Arlington Beach and there was casualties.  Among others (our neighbors gazebo), our gazebo suffered a premature death.  Several of it’s welds broke which lead to a pretty big structural collapse.

Now I think we only paid $99 for it from Superstore but I am unsure if I want to replace it this year.  The weather is so weird that this year that I am not sure that it won’t happen again.  The other alternative is a 8 x 8 deck out there to go with the 6 x 8 deck at the front.  Of course one can actually hear the mosquitoes and dragon flies go nuts at night so maybe a covered structure is the way to go after all.


I don’t take a lot of vacation days.  Part of it is the nature of work… about the time I want time off, we are often short staffed.  The bigger issue is me.  I don’t enjoy vacations very much and it’s something that I have worked on more as I have gotten older.

This week Mark and I are up at the lake for a couple of days of male bonding before Wendy comes up this weekend with Oliver.  The weather has been hot but I don’t have a huge to do list.  Well I had a big to do list but I was reminded this summer but a friend of ours that he spent so much time finishing their family cabin, he didn’t enjoy it as much has he should have.  So Mark and I have cooked meals over an open fire, taken Maggi swimming a lot, and hung out reading.

Sergio: One Man's Fight to Save the World So far this week I have read Samantha Power’s captivating book, Sergio: One Man’s Fight to Save the World about Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations diplomat who was described as being a cross between James Bond and Bobby Kennedy.  His resume took him from Bangladesh to East Timor to eventually Iraq (where he was killed) in his attempts to bring about peace, alleviate human suffering, and bring hope and security to those that have none. 

What struck me as I read it is he was a flawed man (terrible womanizer), who made big compromises and mistakes (befriending more than one person accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in his attempt to bring about peace), yet consistently learned from them and adapted to new challenges.  I was contrasting him to what I had been taught about leadership which says that it requires perfect character and looks down on compromise and has people scorning or ignoring their enemies.   There is also the aspect of how contextual what we have learned really is.  What works well in one situation won’t work well in another situation.

Finally, this is shown by Sergio Vleira de Mello’s life and Samantha Power’s worldview and writing but the world’s problems require nuance, understanding of complex factors, and a wider view of context than is often given (MacNamara’s description of the misunderstanding of the nature of the Vietnam War comes to mind as an overly narrow understanding of a conflict).

Now back to the vacation.  Mark was engrossed by The Hardy Boys and is looking forward to a late night session of playing his PSP.  We tried to go swimming today but the algae was so gross that Maggi is a bright green shade right now, despite having given her a shower (it was as bad as it sounds).

Off for the weekend

I haven’t been posting much here lately but don’t read too much into that.  I have had a bunch of annoying (but not serious) bugs going through my system which have made me be more inclined to drafting up some stuff but then watching television rather than post to them.  I am also planting some grass seed, losing the battle to dandilions in our yard, and teaching Mark to catch a football properly.

We are off to the lake and I hope to have some time for some thinking, writing, and will be posting here again next week.  Have a great Victoria Day/Memorial Day Long Weekend!

Vacation 2010

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.

Why Jordon Cooper Outfitters?

A couple of you have asked what my plan is for Jordon Cooper Outfitters as it hasn’t made a lot of sense for some of you as to why I have done it and why I am only posting once a day.  Here is the short answer.

  • I am posting once a day because it is easy to set up a posting schedule with WordPress.  Right now I have posts set up to go five days a week into early March which means that I don’t have to worry about the site every day like I do with this one.  As the content is added to the site, it will be formed into other content like gift guides, seasonal guides, and best of lists.  Look for those lists to start as we start to escape winter and then for things like Mother’s Day days like that. 
  • The site won’t be an instant success because there really isn’t that much content.  It’s funny because most of the questions that I get about blogging often deal with SEO stuff which is a craft that I have never cared about.  Blogging is pretty simple.  Write well, post it online and if people find it worthwhile, you will generate readers.  We’ll see if people find Jordon Cooper Outfitters worth reading.  If not, I’ll have learned a lot about a topic that interests me.
  • The most encouraging stat about the site is the amount of people who have subscribed to the RSS feed.
  • Advertising on While I get a small commission from linking to and, it isn’t going to pay any bills.  I may add some advertising but even with 1000 people a day coming by the site, that isn’t going to pay very many bills either so there isn’t a great business plan.  If I add advertising, it will be discrete like what you would see on or The Morning News.  There will never be ads all over any site that I curate.  It will never ever happen.
  • I will be trail testing some items this summer.  Mark and I planning to hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin this summer and I hope to hit Johnson’s Canyon as well in addition to a lot of mountain bike riding. I’ll let you know how those go.
  • I am open to other people contributing to Jordon Cooper Outfitters.  If you are interested, drop me a line.

Where’s my hat?

For the last couple of years I have been looking for an outdoor hat.  I know I used to live in Calgary but I haven’t own a cowboy hat since a certain green velour cowboy hat in the early 80s and I don’t intend to go down that road again.  Even if elected to high office in Canada and needing to go to Calgary for the Calgary Stampede, I would not wear a cowboy hat.

Bosun HatI have worn ball hats ever since then and they have served me well.  After burning my ears and neck this year at the lake, I decided to go with something else.  I was running some errands and decided to go out to Wholesale Sports Outdoor Outfitters today.  Generally I don’t enjoy Outdoor Outfitters as most of the guys in there are trying to purchase firearms, including a surprising amount of guys looking for hand guns.  To be honest, not many of them inspire confidence in their ability to handle even a airsoft gun.

Today we went in there and it was really quiet and outside of the guy in front of my spending $2,000 on a rifle and scope, there weren’t even guys shopping for guns and I didn’t have that normal feeling that I was going to be shot by a stray bullet.  Wendy had far too much fun looking at Christmas ornaments with Santa Claus in a variety of hunting and fishing roles and I found a bosun hat that should keep the sun off.  Now I did try on a couple of Tilley hats and are they spectacular.  I didn’t want to shell out $80 for a hat but if I was so inclined, they would be the hat that I would purchase.  They fit and look great.  However since I am going to wear it while out hiking or working outside at the cabin, it wasn’t really won’t get enough use to justify the price.

As I was walking out of there, I realized that Wendy has a similar hat and Mark has a camouflage one.  We are going to have to coordinate which days we wear them as we go out.  Either that or I am at risk of being kicked out of the Wiserhood.