Tag Archives: The Cooper Cabin

Happy 14th Birthday Mark!

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

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

Pentax Kx DSLR camera

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

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

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

Mark and his Pentax K-x

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

Mark blogs about his birthday here.

How to grill up the perfect steak

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

Cuts of steak

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

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

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

To the cabin

Mark, Oliver, and I went to the cabin today.  Wendy was working so we got up and drove on out there.  We brought out the electric oil heater, some clean sheets, the first load of non-perishable foods, and our deck box packed in the back seat.

We unloaded the car and observed the carnage that is my bird houses.  Every spring when I go to the cabin, I have bird houses all over the lawn.  In the past it looked like the deer had eaten the twine that I had used and that is why they hit the ground.  This year I used some wire to hang the birdhouses and it was still on the ground.  As Mark and I were picking them up, I realized that the deer had eaten the branches they were hanging on.  Well played deer, well played.

Other than that, it looked good.  Last spring it looked like teeth marks on the cabin but this year it doesn’t look like any deer chewed on the cabin on at all.  I’ll call that a win.  

Of course taking Oliver to the cabin for only ten minutes was not my best move.  The entire time home I heard him grumbling about not going swimming, not being able to get to the horses, no beach, no ice cream, no badminton, and not seeing any snakes.  Apparently I am a horrible father.  It was looking better once we got to Pip’s Esso in Watrous and we got a Freezee but his displeasure in my parenting was made really clear.

We should be back for Mother’s Day.  I doubt the ice will be off the lake but we should be able to play some badminton.  Hopefully he’ll be happier that trip.

Monday

The weekend that was: On Friday night I dropped by the Rook and Raven to celebrate Sean Shaw’s birthday.  On Saturday morning we took Oliver up to the cabin for a night of rest and relaxation.  It was so relaxing that other than filling the bird feeder, I got nothing else I want done accomplished which was okay.  I did manage to get in a long nap, an extended game of fetch in the lake with Maggi, and a good night’s sleep.

I also realized that the last time I spent some time at the cabin, I came home and quit my job the next day.   A lot has happened since I was last up there.  One thing that did catch my eye was this hanging on the wallWendy had seen it and bought it before our last trip up there.  Odd how life works sometimes.

Where I am at the moment: I am work.

On my to-do list this week:  I have some bad medical news that is going to be confirmed.  Nothing life threatening but maddening and frustrating.  I am also finishing up a marketing/communications plan.

Procrastinating about:  That doctor’s appointment.

Book I’m in the midst of: The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their Employees, Retain Talent, and Drive Performance

Music that seemed to catch my attention this past week:  Been listening to the new Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas.

How I’m feeling about this week: It’s going to be a good week.

The weekend

As Wendy writes, we headed out to the cabin on Sunday for a couple of hours.  What a difference a year makes.  No water laying in farmer’s fields, no destroyed highways, no dangerous gravel roads, no there is actually a beach this year.  I didn’t stop long in Watrous but I did manage to hear a farmer talk about the dry winter.  One season removed from the worst flooding in my lifetime and already it is too dry.  I love Saskatchewan.

The weekend

Wendy writes about our weekend on the cabin weblog.  It was a weekend of good books, Chuck E. Cheese, some lacrosse, coffee, and a dog that wouldn’t get out of the bed and a son that wouldn’t stop trying to get back in.  Oh right, this happened.

As you can see, it was going good and as I was trying to get a cute video for Wendy, it all went horribly wrong.  Oliver got some sand up his nose but other than that, he was okay.

The Staycation

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

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

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

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

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

Talking Jack

I have never been a big fan of NDP leader Jack Layton but this week just seemed to sum it all up.  Every time I flipped on the news, there was Jack talking up a storm about Stephen Harper’s secret agenda in changing the name of Indian and Northern Affairs to the more politically correct Aboriginal Affairs.  The other highlight of the week was Jack talking about breaking up Canada with a plurality of one vote.  Everyone from Stephane Dion to Rex Murphy had fun with that one and the weird part of it is, the Supreme Court has already ruled that it needed a clear majority for separation to take place.  As Dion pointed out

In its opinion on the secession of Quebec, the Supreme Court of Canada mentioned the words "clear majority" at least 13 times and also referred to "the strength of a majority." However, the Court does not encourage us to try setting the threshold of this clear majority in advance: "it will be for the political actors to determine what constitutes ‘a clear majority on a clear question’ in the circumstances under which a future referendum vote may be taken."

I kind of liked Michael Ignatieff but shortly after he promised to bring down the government (which he could not do at that time), when he would come on television and in print all of the time, I found myself saying, “just shut up already”.  It wasn’t that I found him particularly offensive, in fact some of what he was saying was correct, it was just that I was tired of politics already.  That is how I feel right now about Jack Layton.  I just want him to shut up already.  The parliament isn’t in session, I don’t hear a lot from Harper politically and I would love to hear a different tone and just less of Jack Layton.  If he doesn’t, I think a lot of more people than myself will grow tired of him.

There were times when Chretien, Romanow, Wall, and Harper were in opposition when you just never heard from them for short periods of time.  Even Lingenfelter does a good job of dropping off he radar from time to time because I think they know that all of us have other things to worry about (Saskatchewan Roughriders, Stanley Cup playoffs, how large to build my deck at the cabin) that don’t need any political intervention.  Hopefully Jack Layton learns this lesson if for nothing else; the benefit of my summer, unless he wants to help me with my deck.

My 2011 Life List

instead of a New Years Resolution, here is my list of things I want to get done in 2011.

The personal goals first

  1. Take a photo each day of 2011 and post it to my Project 365 set on Flickr. I’ll also post some to the Project 365 group.  This is designed to force me to carry a camera every day.  I went out and purchased some better camera cases which will make it easier for me to carry a point and shoot camera as well as my Fuji S2000HD along with me.
  2. Get the front deck done at the cabin and build a back patio or replace the gazebo with another one.
  3. Finish up my documentary this year.  I have about 40 interviews but it’s not even close to being done.
  4. Head to Calgary for an extended weekend this summer.  Take the boys to Calaway Park, Heritage Park, Banff via the old highway, Johnston Canyon, the Husky Calgary Tower, Calgary Zoo, have coffee with noted local photographer Dave King, Cave and Basin National Historic Site, the gondola, and visit Sawback picnic site (my favourite place on earth).
  5. While at Johnston Canyon, take the hike all of the way to the ink pots (which I have never seen).  Maybe I can get a ride in Oliver’s stroller.
  6. Spend at least one uninterrupted week at the cabin with the family.  All of us.  Including the dogs.  With a visit from Lee in there for a couple of days.
  7. Walk or bike to work 100 days of the year.  I am going to put a 1500 km goal on the bike this year.  We’ll see how I do.
  8. Create some online historical walking tours of Saskatoon’s historic sites.  I have been waiting for the Saskatoon Historical Society to be doing it for ages and it never happens.  Plus the best ones that I have seen are done by individuals and not organizations. 
  9. Put up at least three posts a month at The Hedge Society.
  10. Hike with Mark to Grey Owl’s Cabin in Prince Albert National Park.
  11. Learn Adobe Premiere Elements like the back of my hand.  I know there are some seasoned video editors out there who scoff at the term elements but let’s keep in mind that I am a hack, not a professional.
  12. Make Evernote a part of my daily life.

Now my work related goals

  1. That documentary thing is kind of work related.
  2. Finish up a comprehensive manual for front line homeless workers and post it online.
  3. Finish up and launch a website for homeless individuals, front line workers, and the public on housing resources and homeless issues in Saskatoon.
  4. Take John School on the road.  John School is incredibly effective but it’s only for guys who have been picked up for solicitation. By that time a neighbourhood has been affected, marriages have been destroyed, and women have been hurt.  The idea is to get the content and message from John School out there before lives have been ruined. 
  5. Put together a conference on human trafficking in the city during 2011.  I realize that I am a libertarian deep down which makes me quite liberal minded but there are 600 known sex trade workers in Saskatoon and many of them are underage.  No, not all of them are like Julia Roberts or Heidi Fleiss.
  6. This may not happen this year but I would love to start the work on having some policy discussions on poverty and homelessness in Saskatoon with policy makers.  I hate meetings and rallies that don’t take into practical and financial implications for homelessness, poverty, and housing.  I can stand on the rooftops and scream for more money as well as the next one but the reality is that there is always going to be competing political and economic realities.
  7. Move the $10,000 goal that we (hope to) raise online with the iKettle and increase it $25,000 for Christmas 2011.

The goals for the website

  1. Become functionally literate.  The spelling mistakes around here are killing me when I read old posts.  I twice fired the writing staff this fall but unlike Conrad Black, I forgot to change the locks when I let people go and they keep sneaking back in.  Stupid helper monkeys.
  2. Incorporate some more video into the site.  I really enjoyed Warren Kinsella’s W@AL segments and want to do some more fun stuff with video here.
  3. I plan to do some long form writing on some more serious topics.  Writing 10,000 word essays is not my idea of a fun job and as you can see, there isn’t a lot of revenue being generated through advertising these days (apparently I fired my advertising team as well).
  4. I plan a lot more time doing some street level photography.  I have long been a fan of what Jake Dobkin has done with BLUEJAKE and what Sam Javanrouh has done with Top Left Pixel and I would love to do more of that in Saskatoon.  This will be related to #8 of my personal goals.
* for a better life list, check out Maggi Mason’s Life List.

Gazebo RIP

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

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

Vacation This Week

I am off work this week, chilling out at home for a couple of days before taking Mark with me to the cabin for five days.  Wendy will be joining us on Friday night when she brings Oliver up.

As for projects this week, they are the following.

Home:

  • Tossing out a lot of water damaged goods and weeding out my personal library.  I plan to get rid of about 400 books before this entire process is over.
  • Finishing the Adirondack chairs.  We are painting them with a cranberry coloured door paint which should slow the pealing and the fading.   The none stop rain has slowed this project down.

Cabin:

  • Trying to decide if a half dead tree at the side of the cabin can be saved.  If it can’t, I am going to take it down.
  • Levelling the front step.  There are some tree roots there that are causing me problems that I am going to have to deal with in getting the steps done.
  • I am going to decide on how I want the patio or if I want a deck at the front.  The area at the front I want to use is on quite a slope and I am trying to decide if I want to go high and over it or cut into the ground and keep it low.  High! Low!  I sound like Grover.
  • Putting together a bed frame for Wendy’s and mine bed at the cabin.

Mark and I have some plans as well.  We want to do some hiking north of the cabin along the lake and then teach him to cook with fire over the firepit and the barbecue.  If that doesn’t work well, we went to Costco and bought some chimichangas to microwave.

We bought Mark five classic Hardy Boys books today so even if we don’t bond, he will know how to fight crime by the time the week is up.

Katrina Cottages

The Katrina Cottage

I just blogged about this over at The Cooper Cabin.  They are Katrina Cottages and are low cost but significant upgrades over the FEMA trailers designed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  As soon as I saw them and some other low impact houses over the years, I can’t help but think of them as a solution for homelessness in Saskatoon (and other urban centres).

I would give residents a chance for low cost home ownership with a mortgage that is half of what rent would be for a small house.  You could set up a development like that like a condo board in that you could define qualifications for home ownership as well as conditions on reselling.  I know a lot of urban centres have concerns with developments like this but it is all in how they are maintained.  I have seen gorgeous trailer parks over the years who looked a lot like suburbia everywhere else in the world.  Plus, a lot of these cottages are the same size as hundreds of small homes in Mayfair, Riversdale, Pleasant Hill, King George, and Westmount so it isn’t as if small housing is a new thing.

At $45, you could offer housing for under $30,000 a house plus land.  With the right urban planning, you could create a great addition to the community and help a lot of low income families out.  The low mortgage payments would be fed back into the community in the form of discretionary income, be able to be set aside for retirement, or be saved up for future housing as the families grow up and their housing needs change.