Tag Archives: iPod Nano

Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas For Your Wife/Girlfriend/Mother | 2013 Edition

I put together a list of gifts for the women in your life, from electronics to jewelry 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.

Technology

Tablets continue to be big and if she is thinking of upgrading her laptop, check out these tablets by Amazon, Apple, and Google.

Kindle Fire HDX

Kindle Fire HDX

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX packs a 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 1,920-by-1,200 IPS LCD display for quick response and sharp images. One of the more interesting features is "Mayday," a tech support system where a live Amazon employee appears in a video window on your tablet.

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX earned four-out-of-five stars in PCMag’s review, gaining points for its sharp screen, fast processor, and ease of use.  If you are shopping for a reader or a person who loves to online shop, this is a great choice.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $254

    Nexus 7

    2013 Google Nexus 7

    Google’s flagship tablet, this year’s version is thinner, lighter, and faster – Nexus 7 brings you the perfect mix of power and portability and features the world’s sharpest 7" tablet screen – putting over 2.3 million pixels in the palm of your hand.  With 323 pixels packed into every inch, you can read text that’s sharper than the printed page, see images more vivid than the highest quality photo magazine, and watch videos come to life in vibrant 1080p HD.

    Nexus 7 is made by ASUS and packs a serious punch. With a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragonâ„¢ S4 Pro processor and 2GB of RAM, everything runs faster (or at least faster than the Kindle Fire HDX)

  • Purchase from Google | $229

    iPad Mini 2 (now with Retina display)

    iPod Mini 2

    iPad Mini 2 features a beautiful 7.9-inch display (now with retina display), iSight and FaceTime cameras, the A7 chip, ultrafast wireless, and up to 10 hours of battery life. And over 300,000 apps on the App Store made for iPad also work with iPad Mini. So it’s an iPad in every way, shape, and slightly smaller form.

    If she is an iPhone or Mac user, the integration with iMessage makes the iPad purchase a no-brainer.

  • Purchase from Apple | $329

    Amazon Kindle

    Amazon KindleIf 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 (mine lasts for weeks).  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 commutes.

  • Purchase Amazon Kindle from Amazon.com | $69

    Kitchen

    Griddle

    Family Sized Griddle

    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.  Since getting her one, she uses it several times a week and has become one of her favorite kitchen tools and has made cooking a lot easier.  She doesn’t know how she has gone without one.  Even at the cabin, where space is at a premium, Wendy bought one for up there. 

    If space is a concern, check out this compact apartment sized griddle from Presto.

  • Purchase family sized griddle from Amazon.com | $30
  • Purchase compact griddle from Amazon.com | $25

    Music

    iPod Nano | iPod Classic

    Apple iPod ClassicBoth the 16 gig and 160 gig versions hold thousands of songs and videos and can be taken everywhere.  I gave Wendy a 16 gig iPod Nano and she uses it all of the time.  It now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display as well as FM radio.  You can also 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.

    The new iPod classic comes with 160GB of storage in the same compact size, making it the take-everything-everywhere iPod. It’s available in quintessential silver or striking black. iPod classic also has plenty of battery life (up to 36 hours of audio playback or 6 hours of video playback), good looks (a sleek, anodized aluminum design), and other great features (Cover Flow and Genius playlists for creating perfect playlists). You can even rent a movie from iTunes and watch it on the go.

    Purchase iPod Nano from Amazon

  • Purchase iPod Classic from Amazon | $249
  • Purchase iPod Nano from Amazon | $169

    JVC Xtreme Xplosive headphones

    JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphonesWhile headphones from Monster, Skull Candy, and Beats by Dre get a lot of attention, you may want to check out these excellent JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphones.   $16 gets you an attractive bass booming set of in ear headphones that are great for everyday use.  Both Wendy and I have a pair and they get used all of the time with our iPod’s and provide a great sound at a price that is affordable.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $16

    Sony MDR ZX300 Headphones

    Sony MDR ZX300 headphones Boasting 30mm drivers, the Sony MDR ZX300 headphones are designed for use in and out of the studio. These MDR-ZX300 ZX Series stereo headphones feature high-quality audio components; pressure-relieving, urethane-cushioned earpads for greater comfort and a noise-reducing, supra-aural design.

    We have three pairs of these in the house and they get used for everything from chilling out to music to editing podcasts.  They are comfortable, inexpensive, and they look good.

    They aren’t on par with Beats Solo or Bose AE2 but they are about $80 cheaper than either one of those (excellent) options while still giving you excellent sound quality.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $23

    Bose Wave Music

    Bose Wave Music System

    The famous Wave music system still sets the standard for quality audio and ease of use among one-piece, table top stereos.  It looks great and will upgrade any home stereo system.  If your wife or girlfriend is a music lover, this is gift you are looking for.

    Its bold, detailed sound remains exceptional for a system of its size. Now, there’s even more to like. An advanced FM/AM tuner displays useful information like song titles and artists. Touch-top on/off/snooze controls and dual alarms make waking up a little easier–for both of you. You’ll appreciate these welcome additions, plus the same jaw-dropping sound, elegant finish and easy operation you’ve come to expect from this system.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $500

    X-Mini MAX II Portable Capsule Speakers

    X-Mini MAX II Portable Capsule Speakers

    Developed in Singapore, the X-miniâ„¢ MAX II Capsule Speakerâ„¢ is expertly designed to be ultraportable and precisely engineered to deliver a superior sound. With a simple twist and lift, the avant garde capsule-shaped design unveils a pair of stereo speakers. These stylish speakers, which can also be used individually, pop open to reveal the patented accordion-like Bass Xpansion Systemâ„¢ (BXSâ„¢) which successfully mimics the resonance of a sub woofer.

    The logical choice for the itinerant music aficionado, the powerful yet compact X-miniâ„¢ MAX II Capsule Speakerâ„¢produces high-fidelity sound at any pitch or volume and is perfect in all environments, be it the boardroom or kitchen.

    Purchase from Amazon.com | $40


    Lifestyle

    Timex Women’s Ironman Watch

    Timex Women’s Ironman Watch 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; 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).

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $35

    Wenger® Women’s Battalion II Diver Swiss WatchWenger® Women’s Battalion II Diver Swiss Watch

    Stylish enough for everyday professional wear, the Wenger Battalion II Diver stainless steel women’s watch is also rugged enough for extreme snow sports and scuba diving–thanks to its water resistance to 200 meters (660 feet). The mid-sized, round silver watch case is topped by a blue-plated unidirectional rotating bezel with elapsed time markings and a luminous marker at the zero position. The shimmery royal blue dial face is complemented by luminous markers and hands (with red seconds hand), small minute indexes around the outer edge, and a date window between 4 and 5 o’clock. Other features include a handsome triple-link stainless steel bracelet, knurled screw-down crown, classic Swiss Army insignia at 12 o’clock, a scratch-resistant mineral crystal, and precise Swiss quartz movement.

    Purchase from Amazon.com | $200


    Fujifim JX600 Point and Shoot Camera

    Why not upgrade her camera this Christmas with a Fujifilm JX600?  It is a slim, stylish digital camera built to let you capture the moments that bring a smile to your face. With a 5x zoom, this 14MP camera has a CCD sensor to take crisp, clear images every time. Thin enough to pop in your pocket, it boasts advanced filter functions, takes stunning motion panoramas and records HD videos to preserve special moments long after they’ve happened.

    Fujifim JX600 Point and Shoot Camera

  • Purchase from Best Buy | $80

  • Bodum Tea Press

    Bodum Tea PressA lovely way to brew tea to your exact preference, the Bodum Shin Cha tea press combines elegant shaping with crafty functionality. The spherical glass pot features a stainless-steel plunge infuser inside and a stainless-steel lid. Fill the infuser with loose leaf or tea bags, add hot water, wait the desired amount of steeping time, then plunge. The plunger pushes the tea below the infuser holes, so brewing stops on a dime and tea does not over steep to the point of bitterness. To clean up, the unit goes safely in the dishwasher.

  • Purchase from Amazon | $67


  • Canon Rebel T5i Digital SLR Camera and 18-55mm Lens Kit

    Canon Rebel T5i Digital SLR Camera and 18-55mm Lens Kit

    Photo enthusiasts rejoice! The new flagship of the spectacular Rebel Line, the EOS Rebel T5i, is here to renew your artistic side with amazing imaging features and full-featured functionality. Users will be impressed at how simple and intuitive it is to create breathtaking photos with ease.

    The incredible image quality and performance starts with an 18.0 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor and Canon’s superb DIGIC 5 Image Processor. Combined with an extensive ISO range of 100–12800 (expandable to 25600 in H mode), the EOS Rebel T5i boasts crisp, detailed images, even in low-light situations. A continuous shooting speed of up to 5.0 fps allows for fast action capture. 9 cross-type AF focus points help ensure crisp focus throughout the frame, and the Hybrid CMOS AF system enables speedy and accurate autofocus when shooting in Live View mode. In addition, the camera is compatible with Canon STM lenses for smooth, quiet AF performance.

    The performance doesn’t stop with photos. EOS Full HD Movie mode with Movie Servo AF makes shooting high quality movies easy, and the brilliant Vari-angle Touch Screen 3.0-inch Clear View LCD monitor II makes composing fun. Seven Creative Filters, now viewable in real time, puts composition control directly in your hands and is just one of the many features of the EOS Rebel T5i that is sure to renew your special person’s creative soul.

    If cost is a factor, check out Canon’s still capable Canon EOS Rebel T3i for $599.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $799
  • Sign up for a free terabyte of space for photos and video at Flickr.

    Detroit from ORK mapsOrk Posters

    If you or the target of your affections lives in Toronto, Vancouver, Boston,BrooklynLos Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle among others.  They are $22 a poster which makes them a pretty cool value.  Of course they don’t have one of either Brandon, Manitoba or Georgetown, Guyana which makes them pretty much useless for Wendy but maybe you will have some better luck.


    MEC Shoulder Bag

    MEC Shoulder BagWendy has had three different versions of one of MECs most popular bags.  The latest version has the vintage look of aged canvas, plus pockets and a slot for your iPad® or e-reader loaded with the complete works of Jack Kerouac.

    • Front flap has pocket.
    • Side pocket has Velcro® flap and a drain hole for your umbrella.
    • An outer pocket has a snap closure, one is zippered and has pen holder and inside pocket, the slot for iPad or e-book reader closes with Velcro.
    • Padded back.
    • Adjustable shoulder strap.

    This could be the coolest version yet.


    Christmas Gift Guides and IdeasAm I missing anything?  Do you have some great ideas I should be thinking of?  Let me know in the comments.

    You can also find all of the rest of the 2013 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!

  • 2013 Ford C Max Review

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    The latest Ford vehicle I am reviewing is the 2013 Ford C-Max.  After letting Toyota kind of own the hybrid market with it’s Prius, Ford decided to make an excellent hybrid of it’s own.  Two models are headed to dealerships: the C-Max hybrid in September and, a few months later, the plug-in C-Max Energi with a larger battery pack for more electric-only driving.

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    I tested a Ford C Max SEL which has leather (heated) seats, keyless start, and the MyFord Touch system.  The model as tested lists at $30,199. With extra options, the price tag can rise past $35,000.  

    Before I get into it, one thing that I realized this week is not all people know what a hybrid is or how it works. The difference in a hybrid engine and a standard engine is this – the gasoline engine works in tandem with a two-motor, continuously variable planetary-gear transmission that uses one electric motor to provide traction power to the wheels and one motor to change the C-Max’s battery is a compact, air-cooled 1.6-kWh lithium-ion pack mounted under the cargo-area floor and comprised of dozens of cylindrical cells from Sanyo Corporation.  Let’s hope they work better than my Sanyo Sportster.

    The result is that when you start the car, you hear nothing other than the fan.  With the Ford Explorer, the keyless entry worked poorly and I have had the same result because it wouldn’t recognize the FOB.  With the C Max, there is no noise because the engine is being powered by that battery pack.  It’s both initially alarming and amazing.  It feels like you are driving the car of the future.

    When you get in and are 6’4, you are amazed at how big the car is.  I have always wanted to buy a Ford Grand Marquis and take a summer and explore the #1 Highway and Route 66.  If I was going to do it today, I would buy a Ford C-Max.  Considering the far is small on the outside, it is quite large on the inside with lots of storage space to keep kids, dogs, and gear in.  

    In someways it is a bit of a competitor with my the Ford Escape (click here to let you know how much I loved that crossover).  While running some errands with it, we unintentionally parked it beside a 2013 Ford Escape.  Right beside each other you realize that you are not giving much up in terms of space between the C Max and Escape.

    As for as in car experience, it was positive.  While I have long had a car charger for my iPhone, the cigarette lighter doesn’t drive enough volts to it to charge it quickly.  In the C Max I would toss my iPhone into the arm rest compartment and it would be charged up in no time.  The only odd part of it was that when the car would start up with the iPhone plugged in, it would start playing my podcasts that I had downloaded to the phone and not the previously playing Sirius Radio.

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    The MyFord Touch continues to baffle me.  I have had quite a few issues with the Touch system in each car I have reviewed.  In the Escape it would often talk over a block to switch from the backup camera to the navigation screen.  In the Edge it was incredibly sluggish, a feature that was shared with the Explorer.  In the Ford Escape, it had problems syncing both mine and Chris Enns phone until it just mysteriously started working.

    On Saturday night, the Sync just stopped working for some reason while I was driving home from Walmart.  Then the touch screen froze.  I got home, turned off the car and the screen was still on.  20 minutes later, it was still on and I realized that I was going to have a) a dead battery or b) in my neighbourhood, a broken into car.  I wasn’t happy.

    I went online to see what the problem is that I saw that MyFord Touch freezing up is a fairly common problem and pretty easily fixed if I wanted to swap out fuses.  I did not but I read of some other solutions that involved driving, waiting, chanting, doing a rain dance, more driving, chanting, and turning off the car.  Since none of these needed a dealer or involved me doing anything to the car, I chose that route and hoped for the best.  

    After about 30 minutes the MyFord Touch reset itself.  As a reviewer I found the problem a little irritating as I don’t have a dealer relationship but I took some time to think about it as an owner and I don’t think it would be that bad.  The fix appears to be quite easy (pop some fuses out, wait a few minutes, put them back in) and then all I would have to do is resync my phone.  There are apparently some apps on the Ford website that can induce a reboot and if that is the case, I would just keep a thumb drive in the console.  

    So normally you would think that something that happened during a review period would be even worse.  In this case, if I was the owner, I don’t think it would bother me.  Software bugs are a part of our life right now.  Even my Nike Fuel Band needed a firmware update.   Of course with the system being powered by Microsoft, you almost expect the car to have a CTRL-ALT-DELETE key to come installed. :-)  I tend to think that many of these problems will get worked out in the next software update.  Of course like all software updates, that can bring new problems.  During this I was also thinking, while this is annoying, I would hate for this to happen while flying a F-35 Lightening II which has a lot more complicated software and is, you know, a plane designed to fly into hostile airspace.

    The only other bad thing about the car can be chalked up to karma.  After testing several cars with heated seats and then quietly turning them up while we drive on the unsuspecting passenger, both Wendy, Mark, and some friends got me with it.  It’s a lot nicer feature when it happens to someone else.

    The Hybrid Experience

    I really enjoyed driving this hybrid.  Like all Ford Eco vehicles, the leaves appearing and disappearing according to how you drive but for me, the best part of the hybrid experience was a summary screen that showed my fuel usage, efficiency, and mileage at the end of each trip.  It left me thinking as I got out of the car, how that trip could have been more efficient and as I got back in, it made me think how to do this trip better.  I actually walked more and drove less.  I don’t know what that does the Ford C Max sales if it encourages us to drive less but I liked it.  It is something that I would love to see in every vehicle.

    A combination of driving less and the hybrid motor meant that I used less than half the fuel that we would normally use in a week.

    The rated MPG for the C Max is 47/47 (US) mile per gallon city/hwy EPA-rated.  If you take a look at Fuelly, you will see some real world mileage numbers for a variety of Ford C Max owners.   As you can see, they range from a low of 33 to a high of 48 mpg with the majority averaging around 40 mpg which was a little less than what we got.  I was impressed.  The EPA rated MPG of 47 was higher than the Toyota Prius but the Fuelly numbers show a different story.  It’s an issue that has caused Ford some problems but the National Post suggest the way that the EPA calculates fuel economy is “asinine” and inaccurate.

    So, why is there such a vast discrepancy? That I cannot state for sure, although the tests used to generate the “official” federal numbers are asinine, particularly when it comes to calculating the highway consumption figure. I quote: “The highway test simulates a 16-km trip with an average speed of 77 km/h and a top speed of 97 km/h.” Ask yourself, when was the last time you drove on the highway following this guideline? I never have because it could involve getting run over by a tractor trailer — to my mind, that sort of highway speed should be classified as dangerous driving.

    That being said, when I was out on the highway and hit the cruise, the Ford Eco engine would kick in and I burned very little fuel at 100 kph.  Low RPMs and almost no engine noise even though the 2.0L/188 hp engine is doing almost all of the work.   Because of it’s larger size and larger engine, I would expect highway fuel economy to be good but not amazing, essentially because at that speed, the electric engine isn’t doing the work, the gas one is.  

    The Rest of the Car

    As Mark will post later tonight, the backseat experience is good.  My 13 year old had adequate foot room and as I could see on the passenger side, Oliver was able to reach the back of his mother’s seat with his feet.  I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

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    I did plug my iPod Nano into the Sony audio system, something that I hadn’t done lately and took the car for a drive.  The sound is rich and nuanced.  While any car audio experience isn’t as rich because of the road noise, it does generate a nice rich sound.  It goes back to my initial thoughts about the car, this is a car that you will enjoy highway travelling in.

    The batteries go in the back which does reduce trunk space a bit.  Here is the rear storage area with a window in it (it’s going to the cabin)

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    Underneath the back compartment there is a secret compartment.  Well not secret but a good place to hide Christmas gifts while you are out shopping with the family. 

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    Mark said you someone could use it for contraband but my thinking if you are that bad of a smuggler, Jabba the Hut or the RCMP has tossed you in jail years ago. 

    To be honest, the storage thing is really not that big of deal for me.  I drove the C Max Energi in Regina and there is less storage in it but there is still a large room to put a dog, gear, groceries, or hockey equipment.  The hidden storage compartment would be perfect for a tool kit and emergency gear.  

    Would I Buy a Ford C Max?

    I love the Ford Escape but I would be sorely tempted to buy a Ford C Max.  A combination of fuel efficiency and so much interior room would make up for the Escape’s all wheel drive.  More importantly I think Wendy liked the C Max more so it may be a decision that is out of my hands.  If you are thinking of a hybrid or just a new car, head down to your local Ford dealer and make sure you take a test drive.  It’s worth checking out.

    The End of the Big Box Store?

    CBC has a story on the changing landscape that Best Buy and Future Shop is facing today

    Brick-and-mortar outlets “have become less relevant,” he said, and as a result “the handwriting’s on the wall” when it comes to selling electronics in a big-box format.

    Another factor is that electronics are being “downsized” as technology advances, making it less necessary to maintain huge stores, and cheaper for retailers to sell goods online and ship them to customers, Williams said.

    While a big box is good for things like television, there really isn’t an advantage when it comes to other items.  The Source is every bit as compitive on a lot of items.  Even today I went to Best Buy and then actually found what I was looking for at The Source for a lower price.  That happens quite a bit.  It’s especially a big deal with The Source having locations all over the city.  I often find it really easy to wander in and find what I am looking for on a break or while I am out and about.

    The other issue is especially with Apple products is that I can buy direct from Apple and if it is over $50, I get free shipping and I don’t have to pay tax.  I am looking at replacing my iPod with a new iPod Nano and it’s cheaper to buy direct from Apple than it is from anywhere in the city.  The same thing when I buy from MEC.  Expect others like Microsoft and even brands like Dr. Dre to do the same thing.  Even if they don’t, shopping from Amazon is so easy and with Amazon’s low margins, it’s almost the same thing for an established brand.

    In the end the big box stores use the format to compete on price and if they can’t compete on price, they bring very little else to the table (unless they can create an in-store experience like Cabelas) As online retail continues to grow, look for smaller stores with better customer service, and easy access to make a comeback.  It isn’t just electronics.  Stores like Rona are asking the same questions about how easy is it to compete with Home Depot and Lowes on a large scale when they may have the supply chain efficiencies and infrastructure to do it.

    The other part of the retail discussion is Sears laying off 700 people in Canada.  I wasn’t surprised.  Several times I have been the only customer I could see in a Sears store and when I walk through it I have to dodge rack after rack of discounted goods.  While The Bay has rallied around the voice and leadership of Bonnie Brooks, Sears seems to just be drifting with empty stores, an aging demographic, and no real leadership.  I can’t see them being around in five years time.

    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.

    Electronics

    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 at Amazon.comKindle 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 MiniiPad 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.

    Kitchen

    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 OvenCuisinart 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 Electric 32-Ounce Tea MakerAdagio 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.

    For more kitchen ideas, check out Wendy’s Christmas Gift Guide for the Cook at The Cooking Blog.

    Music

    iPod NanoiPod 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 headphonesBeats 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.

    Bose Wave Music System

    Sangean Model WR-11 AM/FM Table Top RadioIf 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.

    Lifestyle

    Timex Women’s Ironman Watch

    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 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.

    Cross Bailey Fountain Pen ($38)

    Cross Bailey Fountain Pen

    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-toolCabela’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

    NewImage

    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.

    There is also this great aromatherapy gift set ($40) with this black oil warmer ($6).  A tealight gently warms your favorite scented oil for a delicately fragrant glow!

    Christmas Gift Ideas and Guides at JordonCooper.comIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

    Calgary/Banff 2012

    It’s been so busy the last week and I have been so incredibly sick that I never posted this last week.  Since a bunch of you have asked how our mini-vacation went, here is the summary… just really late.

    On Thursday morning we got up early, checked out the highway conditions and headed out to Calgary for the weekend.

    It was Oliver’s first long road trip and we packed pretty well.  In his backpack he had his VTech tablet and some kid’s volume controlled headphones as well as a cheap set of binoculars.  Mark had his PSP and a National Geographic History magazine.  The end result is that we stopped in Kindersley (for a 5 Hour Energy Drink for me), Hanna (for windshield washer fluid), Drumheller (to take Oliver for a walk up the giant dinosaur) and the boys were remarkably good.

    Drumheller's Dinosaur

    The trip took up around 6 1/2 hours which is pretty good but like I said, our stops were quick.  The stop at Drumheller took the longest and Oliver wasn’t that thilled with the idea of running up the “butt of a dinosaur” and I carried him most of the 100 steps to it’s mouth.  

    In the mouth of the dinosaur

    After heading back down, we were off to Calgary and checked into our hotel at around 2:30 p.m. Calgary time. 

    The hotel was the Best Western Plus Calgary Centre Inn and was quite nice.  Our room was massive and the photos on their site don’t do justice to how nice the pool area is.  They have a normal pool, a hot tub but also a small pool that is only 2 feet deep for kids.  Oliver loved, “his pool” and spent all of his time in it.  They also have a free continental breakfast that was varied enough that we didn’t get sick of it.  Of course it’s central location meant that it was out of the way of everywhere we wanted to go but not so far out of the way we didn’t go.

    All day on Twitter, Mayor Nenshi was warning of the snowfall which we didn’t really notice until we hit Chestermere and the highway was closed because of a rollover.  I am not sure what happened as we didn’t find the highways that slippery.  There was some black ice but nothing that bad; then again I am used to driving in it.

    We were two long blocks away from the 39th Street LRT station and took it downtown where we went for a long walk.  We had plans to head up the Calgary Tower but visibility was really poor so we just took in downtown Calgary.  The snow was really coming down but all over downtown were snow removal crews sweeping sidewalks and streets even as the snow fell which is quite a bit different than Saskatoon which puts the onus on store owners who may or may not shovel out downtown.  It’s almost as Calgary’s downtown is a place of commerce.

    Stephen Avenue in Calgary

    Snow clearing in Calgary

    That night we headed back, checked out the pool and ordered in from Mother’s Pizza, something that I have done since I was old enough to know what pizza was.

    Friday morning the roads in Calgary were reported to be in bad shape but in reality were quite good.  Thanks to Saskatoon for lowering my expectations for snow removal.  Mark spent the summer and fall saving up for a new iPod Nano and despite being $4 short that I kicked in for him, we went to the Apple Store in Chinook Centre where a clerk named Jazz managed to help him pick out the one he wanted.

    Wendy and Oliver in the Apple Store

    While Mark and Jazz finished the deal, Wendy pulled out her Samsung Galaxy and started to text something.  She was lucky she wasn’t tossed out.  As we were leaving, Wendy had a minor fit as she saw a Lego store and insisted that we had to purchase some Lego for Oliver for Christmas.  Long story short, Wendy always wanted Lego as a kid and never had any.  She had more fun than any of us in there.

    As soon as we hit Highway #1, roads were perfect until we hit the Banff National Park gates and they never got the snow the rest of us got so it was a fun trip up with lots of stories and sight seeing along the way.  We went straight to Sulphur Mountain and took the gondola to the top of it.  Excited does not describe the reaction of Oliver and Mark who loved every second of the nine minute trip to the summit.  Once at the summit I was tempted to hike to the science station but it was blowing and cold up there so we ordered a bite to eat and chilled out at the top.

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    Panorama from Sulphur Mountain

    Once back down we did some shopping and Banff didn’t disappoint.  Every single shop had the exact same touristy junk.  As I told Wendy, I spent most of my life trying to buy something nice in Banff and failed.   Wendy found some earrings and found some Christmas gifts.  Mark managed to get some more money out of me and bought some magnetic rocks and a Gondola souvenir.  The highlight of the shopping was a large male elk meandering through main street and within inches of the car.

    An Elk

    I personally love Banff in the off season and hate it during the peak season.  The lack of tourists and crowds are nice, even if the weather is not.  What I loved about Banff is that there was absolutely no trace of snow along their main street.  Every flake was removed… again, it’s a place of commerce.

    Finally we took the boys to Bow Falls where a combination of the cold, wind and humidity almost froze Wendy, Mark and I to death while taking some photos.  Oliver just said, “I want to wait in the car”

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    Panorama of Bow Falls

    As we were leaving, we went to Walsh’s Candy Store where I bought Mark and Oliver two massive jawbreakers and challenged them to finish them by the time we got to Calgary.  It’s an impossible task (knowing first hand) but neither one of them talked all the way back to Calgary.  I love it when a plan comes together.

    For supper that night, we went to Five Guys Hamburgers for the first time.  We need one of those in Saskatoon in the worst possible way.  We ordered burgers and fries and couldn’t even start the fries as the burgers were so filling.

    Saturday morning we met our good friend Dave King at Nellie’s where we had a good talk about politics, urban planning, cycling and photography all over a fantastic breakfast.  It was cold out that day so instead of going to the Calgary Zoo, we went back downtown and checked out Mountain Equipment Co-op (twice), the Calgary Tower, Glenbow Museum, and snagged some milkshakes at Peter’s Drive-Thru.

    While at Mountain Equipment Co-Op, we did some Christmas shopping and Wendy agonized over which bag to purchase (which she always does).  She finally got one of these and seems at peace with the world.  Meanwhile I got a sleeve for the MacBook, a left handed sling pack, some gloves, bike lock (as well as one for Mark) and a lantern. Mark also bought a sling pack which means that we kind of match which is awkward.  At least his is right handed.

    The Calgary Tower is always amazing and we spent a lot of time up there.  The glass floor was fun as people were absolutely terrified to walk out on it while kids seemed to not even notice.  Both Wendy and I took a bunch of photos with other people’s cameras while they stood out on the glass.  We went back downstairs and across the street to the Glenbow Museum where Mark really had a good time.  Wendy enjoyed the section on the National Energy Program and on Peter Lougheed.  It was weird to see a display honouring Preston Manning and not Joe Clark or Ralph Klein.  I know Manning has significance but so does Clark and Klein.

    Oliver at the top of the Calgary Tower

    The Bow as seen from the Calgary Tower

    Saturday night against my better wishes, we went to Swiss Chalet.  Wendy and the boys had never gone but the meal was what you expect of Swiss Chalet.  Personally I am still bitter that St. Hubert is not in Calgary.  Sadly everyone in the family like the meal which means that I am going to have to fight not to go back.

    Sunday we drove back home after some more running around.  The trip was quick as I had two boys chilling out to their iPods and sucking on jawbreakers.  The only excitement was when we were back in Saskatoon city limits when we found out again that snow removal baffles our fair city.

    All of the photos from the trip can be found on either Wendy’s or my photo set.