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Last Mountain Lake

What Maggi lives for

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This is what Maggi lives for.  A stick and a lake.  While the water looks nice, the lake wasn’t even ice free yet and Maggi couldn’t wait for the opportunity to get in the water and go for a long swim.  The bad part of this is that she gets cold and then wants to cuddle.

Sunset

Sunset on Last Mountain Lake

Out for a walk

sunset

Arlington Beach Marina

Marina at Arlington Beach

The long commute home

The Long Commute Home

Sunset over Last Mountain Lake

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Christmas

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.

Mark

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.

Oliver

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.

Stewie Griffin's tricked out

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.  

Wendy

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.

Lee

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.  

Wendy put together a great beer can chicken gift set of a roasting pan, rubs from Cabela’s, and a grilling recipe book.  I expect some good beer can chicken this summer.

Because Lee was so insistent on lasagna for supper, we gave him a MRE lasagna and a spork as well.  He can now have lasagna while camping.  I think that was his favourite gift.

Brittany

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.

My Haul

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.  

Perhaps the purchase the surprised me the most is that the boys gave me Neptune’s Inferno which is a book about the naval battles at Guadalcanal

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.

Christmas Gift Guide: For Your Husband/Boyfriend/Men in Your Life | 2011 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 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.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf 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.

What a Saskatchewan sunset sounds like

The panting you hear at the start is Maggi running by looking for someone to play fetch with.

Maggi at the lake

Maggi at Last Mountain Lake

We had Maggi out at the lake two weekends ago.  The great retriever lacks the elevation to find her Frisbee when it gets tossed out in the water sometimes and here she heading back to shore so she can get a couple of feet higher and find the disc.   I am not sure if she got it this time or if Mark and I had to go get it for here as there was probably 100 or so tosses out there before she was satisfied with her swim.

New fishing rod

A walleye I am not a passionate fisherman by any extent of the imagination.  I went a couple of times as a kid and I can count all of the fish I have caught on two hands but since we own a cabin and I have a kid who wants to fish, so I decided we needed a couple of rod and reels.

For Christmas I gave Mark a rod, reel, and tackle box and he gave my brother the same thing.  That took care of those two but I still needed reel and rod.  This week at Canadian Tire they are blowing out all of their stock and they had rods on for 75% off.  I went out and bought a Zebco Horizon for $9.95.  It’s not professional grade but since I live within a couple of miles of North America’s oldest bird sanctuary (that features lots and lots of pelicans), there are not a lot of fish by our end of the lake.

Now all I need to know is what kind of lures you catch Walleye with (which is Saskatchewan’s provincial fish).  That and I need to learn how to clean a fish.  Either that or I need to talk Alan Creech to take his summer holidays at my lake.

One the other end of the scale is a couple of fishing rods I bought at Dollarama for a $1 a piece.  They aren’t good for a lot other than if Mark has some friends up, we have some rods that if they get broken, no one will care.  The reels are not the smoothest I have ever used.  Apparently no one fishes in the part of China where they were made.