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.
In case you are wondering how you can make a difference this Christmas, click here and see how you can partner with The Lighthouse and help those that are homeless and in our supported living facility this holiday season.
Each December, staff go all out and ask each of our residents what they want for Christmas. For many of them it is the first time they have ever been asked. We then go out in a blaze of Christmas shopping and purchase gifts for everyone that wants them. After a flurry of wrapping paper, Scotch tape, and bows, the gifts are given out on Christmas morning.
Partnering with The Lighthouse on this project allows you to make a big difference in not only making someone’s Christmas but also providing them with things that they need to make the transition from homelessness to their new home.
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.
Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for your Wife / Mother / Girlfriend (all of the women in your life) | 2012 Edition
I put together a list of gifts for the women in your life, from electronics to jewellery to stuff for the kitchen. Of course it tends to be slanted towards stuff that Wendy likes but hopefully it gives you some ideas as well. I know of one guy that just gives his wife a watch every single year. It doesn’t matter how nice of a watch it is, after a decade of watches, you need to show some creativity.
Take a look around and if you have any better ideas, let me know in the comments. You can see all of the other Christmas Gift and Idea Guides here.
According to Apple, the 7 inch tablet market is targeted towards female users. I am not sure about that but Wendy does love her Kobo Vox (especially after it came with a firmware update that included Google Play) and so I thought I would start by highlighting some 7 inch tablets.
Kindle Fire HD ($199) | It features:
- 1280×800 HD display with polarizing filter and anti-glare technology for rich color and deep contrast from any viewing angle
- Exclusive Dolby audio and dual-driver stereo speakers for immersive, virtual surround sound
- World’s first tablet with dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi for 40% faster downloads and streaming (compared to iPad 3)
- High performance 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor with Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics core for fast and fluid performance
- Integrated support for Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! and more, as well as Exchange calendar, contacts, and email
- Front-facing HD camera for taking photos or making video calls using Skype, Facebook, and other apps
All of that and $100 less than the iPad Mini.
Google Nexus 7 ($199) | Same kind of features as the Kindle Fire HD. Of course with the Amazon Kindle app you can read your Kindle books on your Nexus 7. Nexus 7 was designed with gaming in mind. With heart pounding quad-core performance, a vibrant 1280-by-800 high-resolution display, and sensors like a gyroscope and accelerometer – do a barrel roll then tilt, touch and tap your way to the top of the leaderboards while exploring over 700,000 apps and games on Google Play. In other words it’s faster than the Kindle Fire
iPad Mini ($329) | At $129 more, you get two cameras, the fastest processor, and access to the amazing Apple app store. The bad news is that it has the lowest resolution screen of all of them. While the technical elite are complaining about the lower screen resolution and the tablet not shipping with a Retina Display, it won’t make that big of a difference on a 7 inch screen. Again if you are moving from a Kindle, just download the Kindle app and you will have a seamless transition
If you are just looking for an e-reader, check out the basic Amazon Kindle ($69). At only $69, it has an e-ink screen, works well outside, and the battery lasts forever. It doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles of a tablet but you can’t beat it for reading. Not everyone has a desire to be online 24/7 which is why you still see Kindles all over campus and on a commute. An even smaller option is the Kobo Mini ($99). All I know is my friends love their Kindles.
The Washington Post puts all of the mini tablets through their paces here. Read and pick the right one for you.
Griddle ($40) | Wendy wanted one of these a couple of years ago and I was told not to get her one by some cooks that I know. They said she would only use it for cooking up eggs, sausage, and pancakes and that is exactly what she wanted one for. Doh!
Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, & Ice Cream Maker ($75) | This fully automatic small appliance makes frozen yogurt, sorbet, and homemade ice cream in as little as 25 minutes. The frozen-dessert maker features a heavy-duty motor and a double-insulated freezer bowl that holds up to 2 quarts of frozen dessert at a time. Simply add ingredients, turn the machine on, and frozen drinks and desserts are ready in minutes. Its large ingredient spout allows for easily adding favourite mix-ins, and an instruction book and recipes come included.
Cuisinart Convection Toaster Oven ($80) | If your loved one loves to cook and entertain, you would be surprised what a good convection toaster oven can do to make her life easier. Cuisinart’s custom toaster oven broiler is large enough and smart enough to present a full range of menu options. Toast 4 bagel halves, bake an 11-inch pizza, or broil two big open-faced sandwiches. When the cooking is done, its easy clean with reflective non-stick coating on oven’s interior that wipes clean in seconds, which enhances heat efficiency and ensures even toasting.
Adagio Teas Tea Maker ($88) If you are looking for a tea maker that does steep the tea, check out the Adagio Teas Electric 32-Ounce Tea Maker. This maker does it all – heats water, steeps leaves, and keeps tea warm so you may enjoy it all day long. Variable timer and temperature control lets you adjust the strength of an infusion, ensuring a perfect cup of tea each time. Works well with all tea varieties.
Wolfgang Puck 6-Qt. Electric Gourmet Wok with Tempered Glass Lid and Steaming Tray ($90) | The unit’s curved cooking interior promotes proper stir-frying, while its wide top and narrow bottom allow for frying with less oil than with a straight-sided pan. Simply heat the oil; add any favourite combination of fresh vegetables, tofu, or meat; then keep things moving with a long-handled wooden spatula. The countertop appliance works well not only for stir-frying, but also for braising, sautéing, and more. Choose from a variety of temperature settings: sear, high, medium, keep warm, minimum, and everything in between. Other highlights include a generous 6-quart capacity with a 14-inch diameter and a 4-1/2-inch depth, a tempered-glass lid with a stay-cool knob, a steaming tray for seafood or veggies, a temperature probe with a quick-release lever, and heat-resistant side handles for safe, comfortable transport.
iPod Nano ($149) | Apple has reinvented the iPod Nano, making it larger physically and expanding it’s capacity to 16 gb. It now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display. Play your favourite songs, browse music by genre, or listen to Genius playlists and FM radio. Or watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. A perfect workout partner, iPod nano tracks your steps, your runs, and burned calories and syncs to the Nike+ website to challenge friends. And with built-in Bluetooth technology, you can wirelessly connect to speakers, headphones, or car stereos.
If you are looking for something more advanced, check out the new iPod Touch ($299) | iPod touch features a 6-mm ultrathin design and brilliant, 4-inch Retina display. The 5-megapixel iSight camera lets you take stunning photos, even in panorama, or record 1080p video. Discover music, movies, and more from the iTunes Store, or browse apps and games from the App Store. And with iOS 6—the world’s most advanced mobile operating system—you get Siri, iMessage, Facebook integration, FaceTime, Game Center, and more. Now that sounds fun.
Beats by Dre Tour in ear headphones ($149) | Made to stream the soundtrack of your life with perfect, clear sound. Tour headphones were made to stream your favourite music. Seven pairs of different-sized ear tips ensure snug fitting buds. Accurate speaker design plays music back loud and full of detail. Now if you don’t want to pay $149 for a pair of premium headphones, check out JVC’s Xtreme Xplosive headphones ($16) which are getting excellent reviews on Amazon and across the web.
Bose Wave Music System $499 | The famous Wave music system still sets the standard for quality audio and ease of use among one-piece, table top stereos. Its award-winning design adds a touch of distinction to almost any room. No wonder so many people use it as their main home entertainment system. Numerous reviews speak of the Bose Wave’s clarity and amazing room filling sound. If you are looking for the best all in one unit, this is the one you are looking for.
If you want to go old school, make sure you check out this Sangean Tabletop Radio ($85) | Elegant simplicity combined with state-of-the-art performance sets the Sangean Model WR-11 AM/FM Table Top Radio head and shoulders above the competition. In true Sangean tradition, AM/FM reception is excellent providing clear and static free listening. Rotary dials adjust the volume, selects AM/FM bands, and precisely tunes your station selection displayed in a softly lighted analog display. An LED tuning eye assures you’re achieving the best reception for your selected station. In addition, a stereo headphone jack and provision for an external AM and FM antenna is also provided. An AUX-In jack for playing your favourite MP3 music from your portable devices is available as well as a Record-Out jack for routing to your recording equipment or external devices.
Timex Women’s Ironman Watch ($37) | Built to handle extreme activities, this timepiece is designed with a completely unique white resin design that’s wide at the case and narrow at the strap. The Ironman has everything you need: an easy-to-use 24-hour countdown timer countdown/stop (CS) and countdown/repeat (CR); a one-hour chronograph with lap or split option; a daily/weekday/weekend alarm with five-minute backup; a 30-lap memory recall for workout review; a 99-lap counter. The oval dial has a white digital display with day/date/month calendar, an Indiglo night light, Night-Mode features, and two time zone settings. Powered by precise quartz movement, this Timex is water resistant to 330 feet (100 M).
Canon Powershot A2300 Digital Camera ($99) | The Canon PowerShot A2300 16MP Compact Digital Camera, is simple and stylish. This compact camera is packed with advancements that make it easy to get a great shot every time. Smart AUTO recognizes 32 predefined shooting situations then automatically picks the proper camera settings for you. Saving memories in breathtakingly realistic 720p HD is as easy as pressing the dedicated movie button. You will see extraordinary resolution and fast performance with the 16.0 Megapixel Image Sensor and DIGIC 4 Image Processor, and capture more dynamic, exciting images with the 5x Optical Zoom with 28mm Wide-Angle lens. Digital IS greatly reduces blur by recognizing the main subject and applying the best camera shake correction.
All of this really means that you will be able to take great photos when you want. Sure she has a camera on her phone but do you want to trust your phone to take a great photo when conditions are less than ideal? If you have moments that matter, you will want this camera.
If the women you are shopping for is a writer (or wants to be), how about a great looking fountain pen? While you are at it, check out this suede journal ($29) from Indigo or this ruled Moleskine ($13)
Cabela’s Multi-tool ($13) | Despite it’s low price, Cabela’s has put together a great multi-tool. Wendy has had one for a year and carries it everywhere. A handy and affordable compact tool with devices you need for quick fixes and repairs. Stainless steel construction with an assortment of attached tools that includes flat-nose pliers, wire-stripper, knife, Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, saw, bottle opener and scissors. Nylon sheath included
I haven’t forgotten jewellery. If you are looking for a nice necklace, check out this key to my heart diamond cut 14 karat gold pendent ($190) .
While you are at it, check out this sherpa blanket ($52). I gave one to Wendy this fall and she loves it. If you are lucky and well behaved, your loved one will even share it with you. For a different look, check out this Hudson Bay Blanket fleece blanket ($35) It has the look of the historic Hudson Bay blanket but without the itchy wool.
Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for your Husband / Father / Boyfriend (all of the men in your life) | 2012 Edition
It’s Wendy again and I am pretty lucky as Jordon does all of the Christmas shopping in our family and over the years he has created some incredible Christmas gift guides for his website which have generated a loyal following. I traditionally write the Gift Guide husbands/boyfriends/fathers and here it is. Hopefully I don’t disappoint and as always if you have good ideas, leave them in the comments below. For the entire list of Christmas gift guides, click here.
I bought Jordon an iPad last Christmas and has has loved it. Now he is an Apple person (iPod, iPad, iPhone, and a MacBook) but not everyone is. The good news is that there are some amazing tablets on the market for both Android, Apple, and even Blackberry users.
When you are looking for a tablet, make sure you understand how the person is going to use it. I bought Jordon a 16gb iPad because Jordon is going to use it for some writing (using Pages, the occasional Keynote presentation) and surf the web. He had no intention on putting his music on his iPad because he uses his iPod for that task. If he was going to use it as a all-in-one machine, I would have gone out and got him a 64gb version.
Also, some have bought them with the idea that they will replace their laptop or computer. They really don’t for most of our friends (although as I was typing this, Jordon points out that he has never seen Saskatoon City Councillor Charlie Clark use anything but his iPad and his Logitech keyboard/case).
Whatever your preference, I have listed tablets from all operating systems below.
Android | Nexus 10 ($409) and Nexus 7 ($209) from Google. Both offer world class speed and design and in a lot of ways are designed and produced to set the standard for Android devices running on tablets in the same way Google designed the Nexus phone to do for smartphones.
Android | Kindle Fire 8.9 ($299) and Kindle Fire HD($199) Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire to mediocre reviews last year but has stepped up their game with the Kindle Fire 8.9 inch tablet and the Kindle Fire HD which offers retina level display on an Android device. If you surf the web a lot, the Kindle Fire has the fastest wifi of any tablet out there.
Apple | iPad ($499)) and iPad Mini ($329) | While more expensive then the Kindle Fire HD, it has the advantage of the most spectacular collection of apps out there. Also it offers fantastic integration between your iPhone and Mac. Like I said before, Jordon has an iPad 2 and loves it.
Blackberry Playbook ($194 for a 32gb model) | I include this here because I know there is still a passionate community of Blackberry users out there. It’s a good value for the price but it doesn’t have a lot of apps for it. It’s one of those things that I would get for a guy who knew what he was getting and still really wanted. When I asked Jordon, he said there are those out that that still live and die on Blackberry Messenger and it has that… kind of. Maybe you should just get any Blackberry lovers on your list, a new phone.
Depending on the person you are shopping for, they are going to have different demands on what they want out of a iPod or MP3 player. Some people want all of their music at their fingertips all of the time, some want something to work out with, and some want to be connected to all of their apps while they are listening to their music. Whatever kind of person you are shopping for, there is an iPod for them.
If the person you are shopping for isn’t an Apple fan, look at a Sony Walkman ($110). While the design and features look amazing, I am a little surprised it only comes in a 8 gb version, of which 1.25 gb is used by the software. So if you are looking for a 6.75 gb MP3 player in a great design package and a good price, here it is. It is slightly smaller than the Apple iPod Nano but has a lot of the same features. While MP3 quality is lacking, with Sony you know you are getting something that is quality made and designed.
Whatever MP3 player you get, you will want to upgrade the headphones. JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme ($17) headphones are much loved at an affordable price. The series feature a bass port for outstanding bass reproduction, a durable rubber protector for impact protection and to help withstand heavy use, and a gold-plated 3.5mm stereo plug. The Xplosive Xtreme also comes with a handy carrying case. 2.6mm-thick and robust 1.2m pure copper cable (Y-type) Special hard carrying case included S/M/L silicone ear-pieces included Gold-plated 3.5mm stereo straight plug iPod, iphone and iPad compatible.
If you aren’t sure the person you are shopping for would appreciate a MP3 player, why not pick up a Polaroid 8 gb MP3 player ($40)? It may not have the features of the iPod or Walkman but it does offer a really good value and is expandable with a SDHC card.
iHome Rechargeable Mini Speakers ($45) | These are incredible speakers that provide a rich sound. They have a carrying case which means that they get taken with us everywhere, just like our iPods.
They work great with our iPods, netbooks, and our portable DVD player.
Tivoli Model One ($149) | Old school AM/FM in a timelessly sleek design. I bought Jordon one a couple of years ago and he loves it. We actually went and bought a second one for the cabin. It gets great reception in the middle of nowhere and on a hot summer day when the Saskatchewan Roughriders are playing, it’s a great way to listen on the deck with all of your friends. The Tivoli Model One has a rich, full sound thanks to sound pioneer Henry Kloss, and the radio has come to be a modern design must-have. This gift is perfect for a desk, in the kitchen- anywhere he can listen to the baseball game, CBC Radio One, or the oldies station. Another tabletop option worth considering is the classic Sangean WR-11 radio. Different design but same classic look.
Every guy needs a nice pen and this fountain pen is both affordable enough to give a nice gift but if high enough quality to last for decades. If you aren’t sure the person on your list would appreciate a fountain pen, you won’t go wrong with a Parker IM rollerball pen($19).
Tabletop fountain ($49) | It depends on the office environment that your husband works in. At The Lighthouse, Jordon’s office was both too hot and too dry. A tabletop fountain added some humidity into the air and cooled it down a bit. Just make sure you get him a plug in version, not one that runs on batteries. It’s one of those things that once the batteries run out, it never gets used again.
Of course he will need something to write down his profound thoughts in so why not give him a leather wrapped journal for Christmas? Chapters/Indigo has an amazing one for $45. While you are at it, check out this $15 5 inch globe.
Video and Camera
GoPro HD Hero 2 ($199) | Born from a passion to capture your love of life from your perspective, this camera is a feat of engineering. Wearable and gear mountable, waterproof to 197′ (60M) and boasting an immersive 170° wide-angle lens, the HD HERO2 has ushered in a new era of image capture. Professional quality 30 fps 1080p and 60 fps 720p video, combined with 11 megapixel still photo capture that has landed magazine covers. It’s a great camera and a lot of fun for the entire family. With this grab bag of mounts, you can hook it up to almost anything.
Sony Bloggie ($69) | Jordon has a Kodak Zi8 for years and has loved it. We gave Lee a Flip camera a year ago and even Mark has one. While you cell phone can record HD video, it doesn’t have the same kind of quality than a dedicated video camera gives you and it is a lot easier to deal with a SD card than trying to get a video off your iPhone. If the guy you are shopping for is one that loves to take video, make sure you check this camera out.
Fuji Fine Pix XP50 ($150) | For years we have been fans of Fuji point and shoot cameras and the XP50 is no exception. 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.
If the guy you are shopping for loves audio or is a podcaster, consider getting him a Blue Snowball ($60)or Yeti USB ($109) microphone. Both provide amazing clear sound and are a significant upgrade over the internal microphone in a laptop.
Black and Decker Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker ($48) | Jordon is a coffee connoisseur and while the ultimate way to make a cup of coffee is with a French Press or a Aeropress coffee maker ($25), he doesn’t always have time. For times when he needs 8 cups of coffee relatively quick and wants it to stay fresh for a while, there is this thermal coffee maker from Black and Decker. With a stylish design and durable stainless steel carafe, this 8-cup coffeemaker is perfect for home, office or practically anywhere you want hot, fresh coffee at the touch of a button. All this, plus an easy-clean control panel and dishwasher-safe removable parts for effortless clean up. The advantage of the carafe is that you won’t be stuck with hot burnt coffee in case you don’t get it off the maker in time. The coffee will be as hot and fresh later as it is right now.
Atari Flashback ($50)| Over 75 Atari 2600 games all in one console. Jordon laments the exclusion of Pac-Man but you can get Missile Command, Asteroids, and Combat all on console. Let him relive his childhood at the same time making him a subject of mockery of any child in the family.
PlayStation 3 ($269) | Yes it’s a game console but it’s also a Blu-Ray and DVD player, a Netflix player (which works way better than the Wii), and allows the family to play online. We use it all of the time to watch Netflix, movies, and also we still play a fair amount of games. While it’s not something that we would ever consider essential to our family life, it’s hard to imagine doing without.
Leatherman Skelatool ($42) or the Gerber Suspension Multitool ($26) | Both are amazing multi-tools and life is just better for men when they know they have a great multi-tool within reach. If the guy you are shopping for needs something even smaller, then check out the Cabela’s multi-tool. A great tool in a small package.
While the guys I know aren’t big on jewellery, they do appreciate a nice watch. If the guy you are shopping for loves a nice watch, check out the Timex Expedition Rugged Field Watch ($46), the Timex Expedition Digital/Analog watch ($44.96) or the rather classic Timex Atlantis 100 ($31).
Finally don’t forget probably the most wanted gift of the season, the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 ($300) The Parrot AR.Drone is the first quadricopter that can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet. By tilting your device, you control the direction of your AR.Drone, and by releasing it, the AR.Drone is instantly stabilized. Thanks to the AR.Drone’s autopilot feature, anyone can be an expert as the AR.Drone allows for an easy take-off and landing. It’s about as amazing and as much found as it sounds.
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.
I hope everyone had a great Christmas. After a daring battery run to Walmart on Saturday morning, we met up with the Sieberts for coffee/tea and to exchange gifts and Christmas cheer. After that we headed out to Warman to Lee and Brittany’s place for Christmas Eve dinner to open gifts. Wendy talked about the evening over at her blog but I was got some great gifts from Lee and Brittany including some DVDs and When the Gods Changed by Peter C. Newman, an iPad from Wendy, a Denver Broncos hat from Oliver, some big bear head slippers from the dogs, the Steve Jobs biography from Mark, along with a stocking full of fun stuff. Oh right, Wendy gave Mark, Oliver, and myself a Snuggie for Christmas. We aren’t happy about it.
On Christmas we went over to the Reimers where I got a really cool book by Gloria’s great uncle Heinz Guderian who was a Panzer commander and later became the Chief of the General Staff during WWII. He wrote several important books on armoured tactics and I was thrilled to get a copy of one. It also confirms my belief that if Gloria hadn’t married Jerry, she would be leading a war against a rival country. Kristy gave me a gift certificate for Indigo! instead of trying to figure out what to get me. Instead of getting a book to read, I went to Indigo! today and got a big one to write in. While we were there, we walked over to Best Buy and looked at iPad cases. We found one that works for now but I am planning to add a keyboard in the future but they were all out of stock.
Tonight we are chilling out, listening to Moxy Fruvous while taking down the Christmas tree and decorations. In a couple of hours we will be ready for New Years.
It’s been an interesting week at work and at home. I might as well first talk about work.
- For me I should be at home but I am at The Lighthouse. I have been working with a really paranoid guy and we had been making some progress. Today some events happened that more or less undid all of the progress we had made. I am loitering around the office trying to see if I can make it better because I feel terrible about how it went down. An staff member at The Salvation Army used to bug me for my bleeding heart and she is right. Colleague at The Lighthouse walked into my office with some chocolates and says, “These are disgusting, do you want to try one?” Her salesmanship was lacking. I used the same line on Wendy later in the week and she tried on and said, “They taste like soap.” I later offered them to some residents with both comments attached and some people took me up on my dare. One liked them and the others agreed with Wendy’s assentation that it tasted like soap. At least they were warned.
- Seniors below the poverty line are not well treated in this country. Once on pension seniors do not qualify for emergency social services nor do they get things like supplemental health coverage. It’s really tough and if they have limited capacity, the system doesn’t do much to reach out to them. In Saskatchewan there is a shortage of care homes which mean that care home operators are quite choosy because there is always someone easier to take care of. It’s sad but those that need help the most in our society often are the last to get it.
- Christmas is a really tough time for those in a shelter. Some colleagues at The Lighthouse asked every resident here what they wanted for Christmas and went out for seven hours in the malls and bought (and wrapped) each resident what they wanted. The staff now have signs of PTSD after seven hours in the mall but are the residents ever excited about it. On top of that our Rawlco Radio rep, Sheldon came by with some pizza and lunch for the staff and then shocked us when he told us that Adopt A Family gave each resident of both the rooms and the shelters a nice gift card for Christmas. People are pretty excited that they are getting what they wanted for Christmas, I can’t imagine how excited they will be because of what Rawlco/Adopt a Family has done.
- The Lighthouse is the old Empire Hotel. When it was built in 1909 it was THE hotel in the city and expensive (and $2.50 a night). I got the hardhat tour of the building. I need to bring my DSLR and a tripod to take some photos some day as there is some mysteries to this old place like where to the bricked up doorways under 20th go?
- I am reading Super Freakonomics this week. It’s a good book and is on sale for $10 at Indigo! if you are interested.
- I am really loving working downtown. It’s a bit farther walk home than it was from the Salvation Army but I can cut through Midtown Plaza and stop by at one of two Starbucks or Cafe Sola if I am so inclined. Of course it also brings me by 33rd Street Safeway to see Wendy if it isn’t that busy. While the commute works, I forgot how great it is to eat downtown. Soulieo has become a new favourite for lunch.
I am not sure what my plans are tomorrow yet. I know it doesn’t include going to a mall or any shopping. If you waited this late to do your Christmas shopping, may you have safe shopping mercies as you will need it.
A Saskatchewan Party government decision to change the date January social assistance cheques are released to after Christmas from before has come under fire from the NDP Opposition.
As of 2011, Social Services changed the date cheques were issued and direct deposits paid to Dec. 29 from Dec. 23.
“Our goal is to make sure people have money for not only Christmas, but for January as well,” Social Services Minister June Draude told reporters. “We want to make sure that there’s consistency and that people are able to budget.”
As the money is intended for food, shelter and other bills, recipients should look to other options for holiday celebrations, Draude said.
“We really count on places like the (community-based organizations) that work really hard with the ministry to ensure the extras for Christmas are available to our recipients,” Draude said.
I am not sure what I think about this decision. The NDP are right that people need the freedom to spend Social Assistance money like they choose but after years of seeing how busy agencies like the Salvation Army, the Saskatoon Food Bank, and The Friendship Inn are in January because the January check was spent on Christmas cheer (in whatever form it came in), I understand what the Saskatchewan Party is getting at. Of course the other thing I wrestle with is are CBO’s are the ones that need to be counted on to provide Christmas cheer because the government of Saskatchewan doesn’t want to mail our checks earlier.
I know this would get no political traction at all but why not give those deemed unemployable a $50 or $100 Christmas bonus check? You could even do as New York City has done and link it to performance markers like their annual review, maintaining housing, or making sure children get inoculations and shots.
It’s a tough season for those living under the poverty line, making it harder on those that have no other options doesn’t seem right at all. In a province showing gains all over the economic spectrum, there is no need for government to have a heart three sizes too small.
I am about a month late in getting these online but the 2011 Christmas Gift Guides will be posted online over the next couple of days. I’ll be using this post to link to them all so if you are interested, bookmark this post or just keep checking out the main page for more details.
It’s Wendy again and I am pretty lucky as Jordon does all of the Christmas shopping in our family and over the years he has created some incredible gift guides for his website which have generated a loyal following. I traditionally write the Gift Guide husbands/boyfriends/fathers and this year I get to kick off the festivities as mine will go first. How cool is that? Hopefully I don’t disappoint and as always if you have good ideas, leave them in the comments below.
Leatherman New Wave Multitool | Last year Lee went out and bought Jordon a nice multi-tool and he has used it every day since then. It’s amazing how many times it has come in handy around the house or when we have been out driving or at the lake. It’s been used to fix the car, perform first aid, cut down a tree, screw in more than one screw, and open many a package. You really don’t realize how handy and indispensible they are until you don’t have one around. We have picked up some less inexpensive ones over the years and we keep one in both of our car safety kits and also up at the cabin. If the guy you are shopping for doesn’t have one, get him one.
($62 at Amazon.com)
iPod Touch | If the guy you are shopping for has an iPhone then don’t bother but if he has an Android or Blackberry powered phone, don’t buy into the hype that they can listen to music with it. They can but you can’t use iTunes and it’s a big time drain on the battery. Get them a 4th generation iPod Touch and let them put their videos and music on it. For Jordon, his iPod has many of the same apps that his phone does, it means that he can grab it any time he needs it, even if his phone is out of reach or charging. Plus no matter how easy people tell you it is to get music on your Android or Blackberry, iTunes makes it easier. While it won’t replace your HD camcorder, there was been a lot of times when we have it with us and it takes excellent HD video. Photos are generally grainy but the video is good to excellent.
(32gb for $279 at Amazon.com)
Seinheisser CX 500-B headphones | Whatever you do, upgrade his headphones. The Apple headphones may be iconic but they aren’t very comfortable. Instead try the CX 500’s which are high quality, noise-isolating ear-canal phones with a crisp, clear, bass driven stereo sound. They feature a volume control integrated in the cable and come with a new, unique type of ear adapter for an improved fit and an even better passive noise attenuation.
($30 at Amazon.com)
Kindle Fire/Kobo Vox | If a iPad is out of your price range and you don’t want a Blackberry Playbook (not many of us do), why not look at an Android powered Kindle Fire or if you are in Canada, check out the Kobo Vox. They aren’t iPads but they are not $500 either. They allow you to install apps, read books, watch some video, install apps surf the web, play Angry Birds, tweet, and check email easily.
Which one should get? Amazon has a faster tablet while the Kobo Vox is available in Canada. There have been some pretty annoying issues with the Kobo Vox as Kobo has a reputation of shipping before it it is ready. They have however released five firmware updates which means that the Vox is getting better with each release.
(Both are $200 at Amazon.com or Chapters)
Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson | Read the summary and tell me that the tech geek in your life won’t want to read this. Plus, after he is done with it, you can read it.
Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.
At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.
Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.
Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple’s hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.
($18 at Amazon.com)
The Wire | Season 1 ($21)| Season 2 ($21.49) | Season 3 ($21.49) |Season 4 ($21.49) | Season 5 ($21.49) | Complete Series ($149) | If you haven’t seen The Wire, you are missing out on one of the best shows ever made for television. It’s more than the acting and the writing, it’s the concept of dedicating an entire season to one story and crime and letting it unfold. I have watched the entire series twice with Jordon and it gets better wit age. I really is worth watching and owning. It would be a fantastic gift to any man on your Christmas gift.
(All seasons available at Amazon.com by clicking on the season link)
Ken Burns: Prohibition | Well let’s see you have Ken Burns telling the story of prohibition so you have gangsters, smugglers, corrupt cops, good cops, and a government that was comfortable actually poisoning alcohol to keep it from being consumed. Yeah, this is going to be a good documentary series.
($19 at Amazon.com)
Mad Men | Jordon got into Mad Men last Christmas and while advertising isn’t my passion, I have come to really enjoy the series. It’s also reassuring that someone, somewhere is making television worth watching again.
(Season 1 is $10.49 at Amazon.com. Seasons 2, 3, & 4)
Tivoli Model One | Old school AM/FM in a timelessly sleek design. I bought Jordon one a couple of years ago and he loves it. We actually went and bought a second one for the cabin. It gets great reception in the middle of nowhere and on a hot summer day when the Saskatchewan Roughriders are playing, it’s a great way to listen on the deck with all of your friends. The Tivoli Model One has a rich, full sound thanks to sound pioneer Henry Kloss, and the radio has come to be a modern design must-have. This gift is perfect for a desk, in the kitchen- anywhere he can listen to the baseball game, CBC Radio One, or the oldies station. Another tabletop option worth considering is the classic Sangean WR-11 radio. Different design but same classic look.
(Tivoli Model One is $149 at Amazon.com | Seagean WR-11 is $80 at Amazon.com)
Wooden Pocket Knife | Jordon’s grandfather carried a wooden pocket knife with him his entire life. Today while in Eddie Bauer he was surprised to see a great looking wooden pocket knife for sale. Eleven functions in one beautifully crafted tool: scissors, fish scaler, hook remover, reamer with sewing eye, can opener, Phillips screwdriver, bottle opener, flathead screwdriver, small blade, and large blade.
($15 at Eddie Bauer)
MI5 | I fell in love with this long running BBC series along with Jordon. This is adult, post-watershed drama clearly inspired by the hard-hitting style of shows as 24 and The Sopranos. I have never seen a show so willing to kill off major characters but the one that remains (Harry) pulls show all together. It’s a lot of fun, action packed and even controversial.
(Season 1 is $22 at Amazon.com Seasons 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9)
Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 by Christopher Andrew | I bought this book for Jordon tis summer and he really enjoyed it. It’s not a light read as it is a scholarly history of MI5 but it is readable and incredibly interesting. I found myself fascinated by some of the stories he would read from it as well as the personalities of the people behind the vaunted intelligence agency. If you loved one is a fan of history, you can’t go wrong with this book.
($18.15 from Amazon.com)
Fuji Finepix XP20 | Jordon bought this camera this summer and loves it. It’s waterproof and ruggedized design means that it goes everywhere with him, including the sometimes clear/sometimes murky waters of Last Mountain Lake. It features 14 megapixels resolution with an impressive 5x wide zoom with dual image stabilization to shoot sharp image quality in any condition. The 2.7 inch LCD is clear and easy to see even in bright conditions and the bright LED lights the way in the dark. Also it is equipped with a strengthened glass lens cover providing outdoor protection. Other features include one touch underwater movie recording, Motion Panorama with automatic stitch, Face Detection, HD Video, and more.
($135 at Amazon.com)
The Power Broker by Robert Caro | Both the postman and myself got hernias when this book was delivered. It is 1344 pages and a Pulitzer Prize winner about Robert Moses. Who was Robert Moses? Well he was the urban designer that changed the face of New York City and much of New England forever. His car centric urban design probably influenced how we live more than anyone else. He was feared, hated, and admired all at the same time. Just as it’s a book about Moses, it’s a biography of New York City. This book is coming out as a movie (or a long mini-series) next year. Read the book first.
($16.50 at Amazon.com)
Sergio: One Man’s Fight to Save the World by Samantha Power | I haven’t read it yet but Jordon said it was the best book he read in 2010. The book is about Sergio Vieira de Mello’s who was a Brazilian United Nations diplomat who worked for the UN for more than 34 years, earning respect and praise around the world for his efforts in the humanitarian and political programs of the UN. He was killed in the Canal Hotel Bombing in Iraq along with 20 other members of his staff on 19 August 2003 while working as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq. While the book was quite compelling, it has also been made into a HBO movie.
($6.80 at Amazon.com)
Survivorman: The Complete Series | A couple of years ago Jordon was surfing the television and stumbled upon Les Stroud surviving a week in Alaska and all of us got hooked on the show. We own all three seasons (Season 1, 2, 3) but you can get the entire series in one box from Less Stroud’s online store. If you are interested in the cultures Stroud interacted with on the show, make sure you check out the complete series of Beyond Survival
($69 from Les Stroud.ca)
Tabletop fountain | It depends on the office environment that your husband works in. At the Salvation Army Community Services, Jordon’s office was both too hot and too dry. A tabletop fountain added some humidity into the air and cooled it down a bit. Just make sure you get him a plug in version, not one that runs on batteries. It’s one of those things that once the batteries run out, it never gets used again.
($37 from Amazon.com)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 | I never bought Jordon video games but he has made a sacred vow never to let Mark beat him at a game and so every once in a while Jordon takes a couple of days and beats a game. This year he beat Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Battlefield: Bad Company, and Call of Duty: World at War and InFamous for the Playstation 3. While he talks of the sacred vow, deep down he does it to escape and unwind. If Jordon was creating this list, he would add Infamous 2 and Battlefield 3 to the list. Depending on how old the game is, you can get them for a really good deal.
(Call of Duty is $59 at Amazon.com)
Kodak Zx5 Playsport | Jordon is a big fan of is Kodak Zi8 camera but Kodak isn’t making them any longer and has instead brought out the Zx5 Playsport. It’s ruggedized, water proof (even has underwater white balance and shoots stunning video). While we have a camcorder, you would be amazed at the amount of time we shot great video with our Kodak because we had it with us.
($109 at Amazon.com)
Creative Vado | The third generation of the Creative Vado may not be ruggedized but does have an external microphone port which means that with a lavalier or a shotgun microphone, you are going to get much better audio than you would with most standard camcorders. Not only is the price right but along with Kodak Playsport, it offers up a wide variety of video options as well.
($79 at Amazon.com)
Note: If you are looking for some inexpensive video editing software, check out this list from PC World.