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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.

Wendy

  • 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

Mark

  • 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.

Oliver

  • 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

Lee

  • 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.

Brittany

  • 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.

Me

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.

Column: Making Winters Work

My column in today’s The StarPhoenix

A well-travelled friend once told me that Saskatoon and northern Saskatchewan were the greatest places on Earth to be in the summer and the world’s worst places to live in the winter.

How much I agree with him depends on the wind chill.

Winters here are long and dreary, and they last from October until May some years. Not only does the snow linger, for many of us, the winter mindset dominates our thinking on all sorts of policies and decisions even during the heat of summer.

We argue about new ideas for the city all of the time. “We can’t have bike lanes because it snows half the year.” “The winter is too long to waste money on a pedestrian bridge.” “Money on parks is wasted because they never get used in the winter.”

There is much we don’t do because of this white stuff – even when we are complaining about the heat in the summer.

Other cities aren’t held captive to winter in the same way.

Many Nordic cities with far worse winters than ours have excellent bike infrastructure and keep the trails cleared year-round.

Edmonton struck a committee last year to help manage winters better.

I am not sure if I agree with the approach that Winnipeg and Calgary have taken with elevated walkways, but I was able to walk all over Winnipeg in -40 C temperatures with only a light jacket.

A report prepared for the Minneapolis-St. Paul region mentioned that nine of the 10 happiest American states are ones that feature cold winters, and listed examples of cities that do winter really well.

In Germany, Austria, and France, people look forward to outdoor holiday markets where they can find a festive atmosphere along with holiday decorations, seasonal gifts, and warm food and drink.

New York City has imported the idea and has set up massive outdoor markets across Manhattan. Before you scoff at the idea, look at the large crowds that come out in any weather to Wintershines. People will come if you give them reason to do so.

December is easy, but we have to make February tolerable. Winnipeg is doing an excellent job. The city pays a lot more for winter snow and not only can you drive around, the sidewalks are cleared. Imagine being able to drive and get around on foot. It can happen.

Winnipeg has also installed heated bus shelters at a growing number of stops. Even in -40 C with a brutal wind, I was able to take off my tuque, gloves, and unzip my jacket while waiting for a bus.

The city has slowly added winter warming shacks as attractions along its rivers. It started as a local idea, and now gets international attention from architects and designers. Those shacks get you out of the wind and give you an excuse to brave the elements.

No matter the weather, thousands of people are having fun all winter long.

Adding a few warming huts each year would make a cold and windy Saskatoon riverfront a lot more tolerable. It would also help connect the different business districts which are spread out because of our river.

Holiday seasonal markets would also be perfect in the Saskatoon Farmers Market. Who knows? It could even one day expand into something other than a weekend destination.

The first step is not warming huts or outdoor markets, however – it is to convince council to get serious about residential snow removal. And our business improvement districts must get serious about keeping sidewalks clear.

Then it relies on everyone figuring out ways to make winters more enjoyable.

Maybe it’s a restaurant opening its deck on milder days, or community associations holding outdoor parties in the winter, like they do in the summer.

It requires the city looking at ways of making our parks winter-friendly, perhaps with more fire pits, or ensuring bike lanes are cleared all season long.

It’s bus shelters that actually do keep us warm. Once we figure out how to shed the shackles of a cold winter and enjoy it, we will find out that even our summer months can get better.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

What’s new around here

Since I have been too busy to post much, here is obligatory catch up post.

  • I have had a lingering pneumonia for the last couple of weeks.  Lots of fluids in the chest which means lots of coughing up said fluids.  It has also meant a lot of sleepless nights.  So tired right now.  Being sick really antagonizes my neuropathy so not only am I in pain but I think it’s raining all of the time.  From the pot into the fire I guess. 
  • While things are going forward at Stewart Properties, it is slow progress on many fronts.  Some of the projects we have going will make a huge difference in the life of Saskatoon and are still really exciting.  The key word in that is slow and with not much happening as we wait on architects, government, and then it will be financing; I decided to pick up another job this fall and am working at Don’s Photo where I get to play with and talk about cameras and photography every day.  Its temporary but an enjoyable way to spend the day.
  • No one comes in upset at a camera store.  They are coming in because they a) have researched a product and want your opinion b) are so excited about a new camera they can’t sleep (it happens a lot c) are stressed because they broke their camera and are hoping you can fix it.  If you can’t fix it, they know it’s their fault but if you can, they are very, very happy.  (pro tip, hit the “Restore to default settings” button and see if that helps).  Most people leave really, really happy.
  • Favorite customers are on Thursday evenings when the hardcore camera enthusiasts come in to talk about things.  It’s quiet and you have conversations about cameras, technology, film, and amazing vacation stories.  One the other night ended with, “I took the picture and then the wolverine started to get closer”.
  • My time slot on the Saskatoon Afternoon Show has now changed on Mondays.  Instead of being on at 5:15 with Ian Goodwillie, I am now on with Bronwyn Eyre at 4:20 p.m.  Expect us to get a bit more political.  I am still on the air at 5:15 on Wednesdays.

Distracted Driving in Saskatchewan

Last week Ford invited myself and some other bloggers to the RCMP barracks in Regina to an event hosted by the RCMP, SGI, and Ford (via their Capital Ford dealership) about the dangers of distracted driving.

RCMP

After going to the closed course, we were joined by high school students from Regina who according to their media interviews, all drove while texting, surfing the web, and using social media and really saw nothing wrong with it.  The problem with it is that distracted driving kills more people in Saskatchewan than driving under the influence and RCMP are finding more and more accident scenes where there are no skid marks people didn’t even brake.

They set up several stations.  One was a closed course about driving while texting.  That didn’t go so well.  Surprisingly at another station, most people could not even eat and drive at the same time (which reinforced what several cops have told me over the years), and another one features people fixing their hair and putting on makeup while driving.  The end result was there was pylons flying all over a course that was not that challenging.  

Ford's Distracted Driving event in Regina

What was scary was even as the kids got out of the cars and walked to their next station, what were they doing?  Texting.  It going to be a long road ahead if we are going to change this but it was a good start by Ford, SGI, and the RCMP in changing minds.  Of course who do they learn this behaviour from?  Their parents.  While kids text on the phone, parents in Saskatchewan talk and drive on the phone (and we aren’t talking hands free either).  It all needs to stop.

The RCMP also had a crime scene investigation display where they had their Dragonfly drones out on display (I really wanted to fly one) and had a couple of accident scenes set up.  My only regret for the day was that I never asked the RCMP if I could test drive this.

RCMP Tricycle

How much fun would a high speed chase be on a RCMP tricycle?  I could have taken on any mall cop in the greater Regina area.

I posted the rest of the photos from the day here.

100 Ideas to Make Saskatoon a Better City

Lately I have been tossing around a bunch of ideas that would make Saskatoon a better city to invest, work, live, and play in.  I kept them in a Moleskine and was going to put together a website but after thinking about it, I am going to post them here starting tomorrow.  That will make them the longest series I have ever posted (or written). 

Normally I don’t really care that much about comments but if you have some, let me know as i’d love to hear your feedback on this series.

The Daily

The Daily

For years I published a photoblog on Blogger when that was a lot easier to say than it was to do.  It was a lot of fun but I got away from it and when I moved to WordPress, I deleted the subdomain and killed the blog.  Since then I have been posting selected photos here but it has never felt totally comfortable and so this weekend I decided to start posting daily images at a new site called The Daily.  You can follow along here, via RSS, or on Twitter.

We’ll see what happens with it but I am promising a new photo there every day, at least five days a week but I suspect it will be more.

If you have any thoughts or comments, let me know in the comments.  I’d love to know what you think.

La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam

On Sunday I decided to take the family along the backroads to Prince Albert.  We explored the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Ascension, Fish Creek Church, and eventually the La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam east of Prince Albert.  Mark shot some video footage while there which you can see below.

Wendy wrote a little more about the day on her blog.

What I Read

I get asked all of the time what I read and I thought I would toss it into a blog post.

For news, the first site of the day I check on National Newswatch.  If you aren’t checking it out everyday, you are doing your news all wrong.  I then check out the links of The Morning News and browse Metafilter.  I have had an account for years but rarely log in.  I check out the National Post, Macleans, and The Globe and Mail.  Once I get the national news I check out The Toronto Star and Calgary Herald.  While not daily reads, I do read everything that is posted to the Hill Times.

The two sites that I explore the most are Yahoo! Sports and ProFootballTalk.  I check Yahoo! Sports about 10 times a day and ProFootballTalk in the morning and then again in the evening.  It is America’s Cup season which means that I spend a lot of time on YouTube.  I generally watch the 20 minute race recap and if I have time, I watch the whole race on my TV via the PS3 app.  YouTube on your television will forever change the way you watch TV.  It is amazing.

I also follow Doug Smith’s Sports Blog where he lives and mostly dies with the Raptors.  I read it because he is a great source of Raptors news but also because he has a unique blogging style that I really like.  Once I am there, I generally find myself in The Star’s sports section where the goal is to avoid the Toronto Maple Leafs coverage.  Then it is to check out the National Post sports but more or less I am just there to see if I missed anything that Bruce Arthur wrote and I missed his tweet to it.

Sportsnet.ca is my next sports stop and that is see what Michael Grange is writing about.  Much of Sportsnet is written by television personalities and it shows but Grange is a sportswriter.

I don’t blog a lot about military technology and affairs but I do read Wired’s Danger Room daily and Tom Rick’s The Best Defence Blog.   For urban discussions I follow a lot of people on Twitter but I also check out the Direct Transfer, Streets Blog, and The Atlantic Cities.

I subscribe to The StarPhoenix and pick up a copy of Metro News.  I also read Planet S. Saskatoon Express, and Verb weekly, mostly because I know some of their writers and I respect what they do.  

For magazines, I subscribe to Spacing, The Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, and Foreign Policy

For blogs like most of the free world, I read Kottke.org daily and check out Gordon Price‘s blog weekly.  I would read City Hall Notebook more but The StarPhoenix kind of let it die, although it seems to be coming back to life lately.

There are always a couple of books on the go.  I own a Kindle but don’t use it much.  Mostly because I prefer to browse Indigo and McNally Robinson.  For all of the wonderful things that Amazon.com does, browsing books is the domain of the bookstore.

What am I missing?  Suggestions?

The New (Old) Barbecue

A couple of weeks ago someone stole my brand new barbecue.  Wendy had to work that Saturday so we had the Friday off together and decided to take a trip out to Gardiner Dam.  The boys had a good time seeing the dam with the spillways open and had a nice swim in Lake Diefenbaker.

I made the mistake of ordering a quick lunch at the cafe there and it tasted bad.  Within 45 minutes I was in pain and realized that something wasn’t right.  We got home and I laid down for a nap while Wendy went grocery shopping.  There was a city crew working in the area and I never thought much of it when I heard some noise outside the house.  Little did I realize it was someone cutting the lock on the barbecue and stealing it in the middle of the afternoon.

After getting mad and then filing my police report, I had a problem.  Mainly no barbecue.  

I had an old one in the backyard which I hadn’t taken to the dump yet (thanks to my brother and his truck being busy) It was nice back in the day but had been traded into Weber who donated about 100 of them to the Salvation Army.  I bought it for $20 about 8 years ago.  We had just gutted it to fix the barbecue at the cabin so it needed some work.  Two new grills, new briquettes, a new handle, nob, and tank.  About $100 worth of repairs but cheaper than the cheap barbecues that Wal-Mart was selling and with the deep bowl, it would do a better job.  As Wendy pointed out, we do cook some things that do need some space and that factored into my decision.

My first step was to empty out the barbecue of all of the dust, grease, and briquettes pieces that were left.  I took the scraper and wire brush to the barbecue and really cleaned it out.  I will paint it next summer (perhaps a colour) with heat resistant paint but for now, I just need to get the job done.

Onward Grill Pro 92375 rw 66822 79458

After looking around, I decided to purchase GrillPro Porcelain Coated Heat Plate which converts you from briquettes to a dispersed heat plate.  It took 5 minutes to assemble and works as well as my stolen barbecue did.  It was $23 at Home Depot and in the end saved me from having to replace the bottom grill and the brickettes.

You can drill some holes in the bottom your barbecue and mount this in permanently but mine set right in and we don’t move it at all so I decided against it.  I had originally bought two of them but then after taking one of them out, I only needed one of them.

For the upper grill, I also picked up a new universal replacement grill.  It took about 30 seconds to fit and insert but it holds the heat better then the stock grill. 

I fired up the barbecue and let any of the chemicals burn off.  We then cooked a couple of beer can chickens on them and the cooking experience was fantastic compared to the briquettes (it was as good as my stolen barbecue).  If you have not moved from briquettes to one of these heat plates, you really need to.  It really is a better cooking experience and for $25, it is so cheap to do and easy to install.  Not only did I save on the briquettes but also the replacement bottom grill.  

The total cost was $45 to refurbish the barbecue with the upgraded head plate and grill which wasn’t bad.  I still had to purchase the new tank but in the end, it’s nice to be able to cook outside again.  If you have a barbecue that you don’t love nearly as much as when you bought it, consider swapping out your briquettes for a new heat plate.

My new gig

I realized the other day that I haven’t written about what I am doing now since I left The Lighthouse.  I left The Lighthouse without a Plan A or a Plan B.  When Wendy and I sat down and talked about Plan C, we actually spent a lot of time talking about selling the house and exploring options to work anywhere.

We talked a bit about moving to her home country of Guyana and I looked at some jobs in Europe.  The idea of selling everything and starting fresh was interesting and exciting to us.  We have a lot of equity in our home and benefitted from buying long before the real estate boom hit Saskatoon.  We looked at moving to Victoria, Nunuvuk, and even Newfoundland after some job offers came up.

During that time I was having conversations with companies staying in Saskatoon, including some service providers.  For some service providers, I was a good fit but I wasn’t really passionate about what they did.  Just going to work didn’t appeal to me and I wanted to do something that would continue to make a difference.

I had been talking with Tyler Stewart of Stewart Property Holdings.  Tyler is creating affordable housing suites out of old buildings  that everyone else has given up on like The 525 and 820 20th Street.  He also salvaged 340 Avenue D South which is a story that is so incredible that it needs its own documentary/horror film.

8280017

During those times, I took some time to think about what I wanted to do and I read some good advice that said, don’t look for a job but rather look for an organization that you want to be a part of.

In talking more and more with Tyler, I realized that rejuvenating buildings and finding people quality housing is something that I care a lot about.  There is also the excitement of being part of was is essentially a start up..  His values of affordability and heritage appeal to me.

Back

The exciting thing for me is the opportunity to do something right that will be a part of the city for generations. Some of the properties are already 100 years old and this is part of their midlife rejuvenation.  Done right, they could be good housing stock for another hundred years.  That and it means staying in Saskatoon.

With new properties, it is the ability to bring in new ideas and make them fit in neighbourhoods, within budgets, and within city guidelines and regulations.  In both cases it’s seeing ideas come to light with the result being better homes for people in Saskatoon.

I am also working on the homelessness issue.  As Tim Richter, the head of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness has talked about, don’t build shelters, build housing units.  I agree and the opportunity now is to build housing units that match up with the needs of the residents.  For years I have had to make do with what we had.  For the first time I am able to work with agencies and build around the needs of people, regardless of their age, mental health issues, or their journey in life.

Anyways, my new job title is Vice President of Community Development and my email address is jordon AT stewartproperties.ca.  While I am not in the office a lot, it’s located at 500 Spadina Cres E which is right on the corner of 20th Street and Spadina Cres.

Father’s Day

Sadly I didn’t get one of these for Father’s Day.  I never quite get what I want :-)

BM6q477CQAAFBsH

Wendy and the boys did get some nice stuff and my awesome wife blogs about the day here.  The day would have been perfect but the garbage hound I have for a dog got into a bag and spread it all over the house.  I had no idea Maggi had been bred with a racoon.

Joseph Abboud Brown Elastic Front Pocket Wallet

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

George costanza wallet

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

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

Joseph Aboud front pocket leather wallet

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

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

Photo

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

The Grey Owl’s Expedition Gear Guide

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

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

NORTH 49® CYCLONE BACKPACKS

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

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

Ozark Trail Tent

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

0765159 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Years

Oliver turning five

Oliver turned 5 today which his a fairly remarkable achievement considering his life so far.  Five years and a day ago, Wendy had been hospitalized a couple of weeks after struggling with pre-eclampsia for most of the pregnancy.  The hospital trip was a roller coaster as every day her condition was changing.  She went from being in the hospital to being in intensive care to being on the verge of being let out and sent home.  I had every expectation of bringing her home the next day.

Instead at 5:00 a.m., I got a tearful phone call from her saying that they were going to do an emergency c-section and I needed to get to the hospital right away. The nurse told me that I had a little time so I grabbed a quick shower and raced through the city to Royal University Hospital where the parking lot was closed.  I parked at metered parking with this kind of funny realization that I bet Oliver was going to be born at the time I needed to plug the meter again.

As I went up to the room, there was chaos in Wendy’s room with doctors and nurses in an out taking her vital signs.  A doctor grabbed me and said that Wendy was in better shape than another mother and child and they didn’t think they would survive if Wendy went first.  It wasn’t as if I had any say in it but I kind of said, “yeah, no problem”.  Sadly their child didn’t make it.

I sat with Wendy, called Lee, and just waited.  Wendy was unconscious for most of it and had no idea how serious her condition was.  A doctor came in and told me how bad it was for Wendy and said, “there is a good chance she is going to have a heart attack or stroke during the caesarean”.  There wasn’t much for me to say.  He asked what I did for a living and I told him.  He looked relieved and said, “I don’t think you will freak out in there but if you do, I am going to toss you out of the delivery room.”  I replied, “I seem to the only one who isn’t losing it this morning.  I’ll be fine”.  At this time it was 6:00 a.m. and I offered to do a coffee run for the nurses that had spent the night with Wendy.

The Starbucks was packed and my heart kind of stopped when a nurse came running up to me but she just had some money and was going to help me with the coffees.

We sat for hours as I just kind of sat there and held Wendy’s hand.  Her vital signs were getting worse and her blood pressure was getting higher.  Finally another doctor came in and was yelling at someone else that “this baby should have been taken days ago and the mother is going to die.”  I remember thinking, “Really? This is what medicare cuts have gotten us.  Doctor’s who don’t even realize they are in the room with the father.”  As they left, the nurse came over and said, “Fucking idiots”, told me to ignore them and then realized that it was going to be impossible.  She was mad at them for having that conversation in front of me and offered me another coffee.  I took her up on her offer.

Finally Wendy and I were taken into the delivery room.  A resuscitation team was there as was a team to take Oliver to the NICU. Everyone was just looking at me like, “What the heck is the father doing here” and the doctor would just say, “He works at the Salvation Army, he’s cool” and that seemed to satisfy people.

The caesarean section was over quick and more than Oliver, everyone was looking at Wendy’s vital signs.  The radio was playing the song that was on when Oliver came out was YMCA by the Village People.  There was a massive screen up between Wendy and I and the baby.  As Oliver came out, a nurse and doctor raced over the other side of the screen and kind of yelled, “The baby is fine!” while everyone was looking at Wendy’s blood pressure.  As the tensions left the room, one of the doctors came up to me and said, “I’d be okay with my kid being born to the YMCA.  If it was a Bette Middler tune, his life may have been meaningless”.

Wendy was taken to the recovery room while I wandered out.  I don’t know how but Lee and Mark were in the waiting room and they poked their head into the recovery room and said hi to Wendy who was too tired to know what was going on.  Wendy’s blood pressure hit dangerous levels off and on for the next week.

As I left with Mark to go to Alexander’s for lunch, of course I got a parking ticket.  I wanted to fight it on the basis that I had no other options but I just paid it.

I was able to go up and see Oliver the next day in NICU.  Mark was too young to see him but they made several exceptions for him and Lee.  Because Wendy was too weak to walk, she wasn’t able to see him for the first week which went over poorly.  A combination of fatigue and the medication had her believing that this was a conspiracy but we got over that.

Oliver Scott CooperOliver Scott Cooper

Oliver spent 23 days at RUH and we finally took him home on July 2, 2008.  Before we got home, we actually took him to the Salvation Army Community Services and then to Reimers so it was a late day before he experienced his new home.

Despite the stress of his entry into this world, there was one more obstacle and that was Maggi.  Maggi is like a bull in the China shop and I was nervous that a dog that physically assertive would not do well with a child who was two months premature.  We took him home, set him down in his car chair and a very gentle Maggi slowly approached Oliver and gave him a gentle lick.  It wasn’t until he walking and the height of a wagging tail that her protectiveness and gentleness diminished.

So now he is five.  Time flies when you repress some of those memories.

Today he woke up and excitedly opened his presents:

  • Spiderman water bottle
  • Kick scooter
  • Green Army men
  • An NFL football (from Mark of course)
  • Ninjago book (his two favourite things, Ninjas and Lego)
  • Some new shirts
  • An Angry Bird hat

He is off at A.H. Browne Park with Mark on his new kick scooter wearing a brand new shirt.  He is off to take over the world.

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.