Tag Archives: Wendy Cooper

On being a dad (and hiking with kids)

So we just got back from Prince Albert National Park today.  We had planned to hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin.  We got up early on Saturday, navigated a nasty Kingsmere Drive to the trailhead (it’s under heavy construction) and then started out.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

The biggest question I had during the build up to this was how was Oliver going to hold up on the hike and with a pack.  His pack fit him well, only had his sleeping bag, some clothes and his headlamp and knife in it but 40 kilometers over two days is really hard for anyone let alone an 8 year old.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

He started out fine but even at the first campground, he was struggling.  As we pushed on we passed kilometer six and he had tears running down his eyes and was saying, “I’m okay Dad, I’m okay.”  He wasn’t.  His feet were killing him.  He had hikers on but it wasn’t working.Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

I have read all sorts of articles on REI and MEC about pushing kids too hard.  It turns a hike into a forced march and makes them hate doing this.  Since hiking is Oliver’s favorite thing in the world right now, I didn’t want to do this too him.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

As we came into the Chipewyan Portage, I talked to Wendy and said we are staying here for the night.  He’s in pain and not having fun.  He wasn’t going to make it to Grey Owl’s.

I suggested the idea to him and he seemed so relieved.  Then he came and said, “I’m tough enough to keep going.”  I just said that this looked like a good place to camp (and it was).  Of course we had two tents and it was a one tent campground but I was willing to explain my decision to any Parks Canada warden who came by says it has a two tent campground.  We may or may not have been using that campsite but I’m not sure.  When we got it, it just looked like a picnic area and a one tent campground but I’ll defer to Parks Canada on this one.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Oliver took off his hikers and put on his Dawgs but even then could barely walk he was in so much pain.  He got better as the night went on but he had given it all he had.

Around 8:00 p.m., a light drizzle gave away to an impressive storm.  Mark had a rain poncho on so he got the food up on the bear platform (anti bear platform?) and made sure no food was close to our tents.  We had cooked well away from them but by the fact that you have to do that makes you realize how deep you are into bear country.

The storm continued for most of the night.  The winds came up and we started to hear the trees snap during the night.  Parks Canada does a really good job of thinning out the trees near your campground so there are no “widow makers”  near but hearing those trees snap in the middle of the night is a terrifying sound especially when they are so close.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

At 4:10 a.m., I heard an animal near by.  Our tents have gazebos and were shut up for the night.  Wendy and I have the Mountain Hardware Drifter 2 person tent which has two entrances.  I had found a baseball sized branch and had put it outside my side of the tent earlier just in case.  I had grabbed my headlamp and was ready to go check it out but it just sniffed around what sounded like the firepit (which we hadn’t used for this very reason) and kept on walking.   There were bear tracks on the trail area this morning.  It worked out the best for both of us.  For me I didn’t have to get muddy and for the bear, he didn’t get his butt kicked.

Leave No TraceWe had a big breakfast, cleaned up our campground, and started the hike back to the Ford Flex.  We took the Leave No Trace philosophy seriously.  We packed out the garbage from the campground.  Before we left Mark and I restacked the firewood and replenished the wood we used the night before.  The campground was a mess before we got there with several large areas burned for bonfires by the beach (really people) and we did our best to clean some of that up as well.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Oliver was good until the last 750 metres and then he was in pain and crying.  I had Wendy and Mark go ahead and open up the car and get him and I an ice cold Gatorade.  Just as we came out of the trailhead Mark came running up and took Oliver’s pack and gave him and I cold drink.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

We met a teen girl who was solo hiking to Grey Owl’s the day before.  I had chatted with her dad as she left and she had made the hike and left early in the morning to get back early to meet her dad.  She was chilling out at the trail head when we got back so Wendy took a cold drink down to her who seemed really happy with it.  She was also surprised that Oliver had hiked as far as he did.  That picked up his spirits and he left feeling in a good mood.  The encouraging words of a mom, dad, and brother mean one thing but a compliment from a girl he only met hours before, well that is next level.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

From there it was into Waskesiu to get some Doritos and then the long ride home.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Next year we will try to make it to Sandy Bay.

I can pretty demanding of the boys but as I have always told them, all I want to see is there best effort at things.  Oliver put in a huge effort.  He told me that, “I didn’t have enough left in the tank.” which is a great use of a sports cliche but I said back to him, “At eight years old, your tank may not have been big enough and that is okay.”

A Short Disclaimer

Some of you have asked if I am helping with any political campaigns in the municipal election.  The answer is no.  I did no work on campaigns in the provincial or federal election either.

I will let you know that Wendy and I are friends with a few candidates and councilors like Jeff Jackson and Zach Jeffries.  I have hundreds if not thousands of political discussions over the last five or six years with them, often mocking and criticizing them.  I have called out Zach in columns and in the blog and I think I have been fair when I have done it.  I can tell you that I have never pulled a punch or a criticism of a politician because of a friendship and that has ended some friendship (which sucks by the way).

If Jeff wins, I can’t promise to call him out but if he does anything stupid or against the interests of the city, I most definitely will call him out on it somewhere.  He knows that and I am sure will tell me how wrong I am at a high volume when I do.

Some ask me if that influences what I write about.  Yes and no.  No in the sense that they don’t give me direction on what to write about.  Yes in that some of them are also reading and researching aspects of urban life and they bring up some interesting idea of policy being looked at or implemented somewhere, I read it and research it myself.  It’s just nerds sharing ideas on urbanism and cities. 

Wendy and I are both friends with Councilor Pat Lorje.  Both Mark and Oliver would consider her a friend as well.  Now that I think about it, most of our conversations have to do politics outside of Saskatoon.  American politics and even some Spanish discussions.  She also has given Wendy and I some solid parenting advice which we appreciate.  For those of you who follow my writing, you know that Councilor Lorje and I are on the opposite sides of some issues that both of us feel quite strongly about.  She has gone to great extent to telling me how wrong I was on columns in the past and I assure you she will in the future.

I also have a good working and personal relationship with Councilor Darren Hill.  We have grabbed the occasional drink over the years and mostly discussed issues relating the ward and city.  Most of those were constituent – councilor conversations but like all of politicos we do talk politics.  We also have disagreed on things over the years.  I have endorsed him the last two campaigns.  I may or may not this one but I think it is fair to Darren and anyone who is running against him to wait and see campaign platforms before I endorse.

Wendy and I both get along with socially with some other councilors.  I don’t offer up that much in policy suggestions but if I have read something similar to what they are musing about, I tend to fire them off some things.

Before you accuse me of being too close to council, let’s recall they hired a RCMP investigator to investigate non-existent leaks to me.   I also think as a group they collectively are one of the worst city councils in Canada.  Some of them have personally expressed their contempt and hatred of me in person and in writing.   I try not to take it personally.

Those of you who have seen me having a drink or a coffee with a politician need to know this, they aren’t asking me for advice and if they are good at what they do, they ignore any advice they give them.  I don’t care about the political process which is bad for a politician in an election year.  I am not a strategist, a tactician, or anything else.  I am a friend and a pundit but I tend to stay out of it during campaigns other than listen to funny door-knocking stories. 

If you have any thoughts or concerns about my objectivity, let me know.  I’d love to hear them.

Hiking the Spruce River Highlands Trail

Yesterday we got up early, grabbed our travel backpacks and headed north to Prince Albert National Park.  The line was long to get in but we by-passed it since we already had purchased our Parks Canada Discovery Pass on Mother’s Day.

We drove through Waskesiu and headed back down Highway 263 where we stopped at the trailhead for the Spruce River Highlands Trail.  It is a 8.5 km loop through a glacier shaped terrain.

About a kilometre in the trail there is a 10 meter tower that let’s you gaze over the forest. Many people only take this short trail, but I encourage you to explore the entire trail.

I expected it would take us three hours and in fact, it took four.  The trail is rated as moderate to strenuous and that’s about right.  It was a tough hike with few rewarding views.  You can get a nice view of Anglin Lake an it does drop down to the river bottom for about 100 meters but in the end, it was a tough slog.  Some of trails are either straight up or straight down which is why it so slow.  In other places the trail is at a sharp angle as it goes along the hillside.

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The trail does have one challenging bog crossing.  I came out of it with muddy shoes and attacked by bugs but I considered that to be a lot of fun.  Also as Mark and I were crossing, Wendy and Oliver had walked ahead and had a really close encounter with an adolescent moose which made Oliver’s day.  The dog had the bear bell on her and there wasn’t any wind so the moose should have heard them coming.  Then again, it may have as according to Wendy and Oliver, seemed to check them out and then walk away.

We took the hike to see how my ankle responded (good) and how Oliver does on longer hikes (he did good as well) but this was a big test for Marley.  Last year as a puppy, every trail was a struggle with her and she was out of control with pulling and chasing every single noise.  This hike we put the dog backpack and bear bell on her (which we thought she would hate) and she was chilled out and relaxed for every single step, even when she came face to face with the moose.  She behaved better than I had ever hoped. 

With that figured out, I am a lot more confident in taking her to Grey Owl’s Cabin in June and Banff National Park in July.   The walk did wear her out.  She got out of the car, made it halfway across the living room to her bed, laid down and went back to sleep. 

Back to the trail.  We ran into several hikers going both ways and the hikers we ran into without walking poles all wished they had one.  It make a big difference crossing the bogs and walking along the trails on a steep pitch and angle.  Personally I didn’t need for them going up the trails but going down they were amazing, especially with my balance a work in progress.

I should have expected this for May Long weekend but there were no trail guides at the trail head and all of the markers had been removed, probably for maintenance.  I thought about grabbing my GPS but I had a compass and wasn’t worried about getting lost.  What I didn’t expect was that unlike several other Prince Albert National Park trails, there wasn’t a lot of landmarks that would make it easy to calculate distance back to the trailhead.  Without markers or a map, I had no real idea how much longer it was going to take which made it seem longer than it was.  It did for me.

That was kind of exasperated by the fact that we ran into some exhausted and uptight hikers on the trail who weren’t equipped with proper equipment or footwear and weren’t expecting the trail to be as difficult or as long.  So if you are thinking of taking the trail, bring a stand alone GPS (there is no cell coverage in that part of the park) for no other reason than just knowing how long the trail will be and where you are on it.

The only upgrades I would make the trail would be a couple of red chairs on the ride that overlooks Anglin Lake and then down by the river with some signage letting people how much longer.  Both would be amazing rest/reading spots.

Heading back to Ogema

By the time this publishes, I will be driving a 2016 Ford Focus (not the one below, this one is white) south to Regina where I meeting up with adventurer and author Robin Esrock.  He is a Ford Canada brand ambassador.  After meeting up (and I assume getting coffee at the Starbucks), we are heading south to Ogema, Saskatchewan (a place where I explored last year with Ford), testing out some food, riding the Southern Prairie Railway, taking in a museum, and then heading back to Regina.

In Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan with a 2015 Ford Focus

Wendy and the boys are coming along for the trip.  Instead of heading south with us, they are going to explore Regina and in particular, Wascana Lake and the Saskatchewan Legislature.  I’ll post some photos from the trip to the blog tonight.  I assume they will as well.

If you don’t want to read my account of the day, check out Elan Morgan’s blog.  It’s always a good read.

There is a book signing with Robin Esrock in Regina at 7:00p.m.  at the Chapters.  If you come on out, I’ll be there.  I won’t sign your book but we could totally do a selfie or something over coffee. 

Take a hike

My leg has been messed up since November of 2014 and I have been told be stay off it.  I did my best and a couple of weeks ago it was healed up enough that I could start to walk on it.  Unfortunately I have been as active as a panda bear during the summer months (hilarious story about that, when the pandas were at the Calgary Zoo, we drove out as a family, stood in a long line, saw the panda just lay in a tree and do nothing.  It could have been a stuffed animal.)

So for all of the advantages of living in a neighborhood where you work is a great and all but my work place is 8 kilometers away from home.  So to make a long story short, Wendy has been driving me to work in the morning and I have been walking the 8 kilometers home.

So far it has been going well.  I got into a yelling match with a goose in Kinsmen Park but he was totally in the wrong.  Yesterday Wendy dropped Mark off at my work and then parked at 33rd Street bridge and then walked to Place Riel where we met up.  Oliver and Marley slowed the pace down considerably as we stopped at the ski jumps.

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

There is a beaver lodge at the bottom of the hill so Oliver, Mark, and Marley explored that while Wendy and I sauntered the other way.

On the way over, Marley encountered a train while crossing the CP Rail Bridge.  She was not happy about going across that again but she did and was okay.

So the good news is that it isn’t that bad of walk.  The bad news is that it is an incredibly boring walk, podcasts or not. 

(Ford) #ExploreSask

Ford Canada is lending me a 2016 Ford Explorer to take to Swift Current tomorrow and take in some of the 2016 Ford World’s Women Curling Championship.  

2016 Ford Explorer

I don’t know if Ford knows this but the drive from Saskatoon to Swift Current is a lot of fun.  First of all you drive from Saskatoon to Rosetown which is no fun at all.  Then once you turn south, the drive gets better.  You get into some hills and curves.  The scenery is great.  There are giant wind farms.  There is Saskatchewan Landing.  Just thinking about taking that SUV down to Swift Current makes me smile.  I love driving that road.

So why am I doing this?  Well let’s get this out the way.

  • I don’t work for Ford.  Nor am I paid for anything that I write about Ford vehicles.  They give me complete freedom to write what I think about their cars. Over the years when I have written about things that I may not like, I have been contacted by people from Ford asking for more feedback and ways I think it could work better.  That’s it. 
  • Basically the only restrictions that Ford places on me is insurance related and I am not allowed to smoke in the car.  Since I have never smoked, that isn’t an issue.
  • For this trip, Ford Canada is paying for my hotel (at the Motel 6 in Swift Current), gas, and some of the food.  I mention some of the food because I decided I wanted to pay for the red licorice I am buying tomorrow out of my own personal money.  That way I don’t have to share if I don’t want to.
  • Having thought long and hard about this but if I could own any car in the entire world, it would be a Ford Escape Titanium edition.  You have your favorite vehicle, that is mine.  I love that vehicle and every Ford I write about is compared to how it stacks up to that car. 

Okay, so I mentioned Ford is putting Wendy, Mark, Oliver and I up at the Motel 6 in Swift Current.  The place looks like the inside of an Ikea show hotel.  I can’t wait to take some photos and show you.  I actually am nervous sleeping in it because I am afraid that someone is going to wander through and want to buy part a piece of furniture on their way to go and look at oversized coffee mugs.  The most cutting edge hotel in Saskatchewan is a Motel 6 in Swift Current.  Try to get your head around that. 

There isn’t a lot to do in Swift Current but I will see what I can photograph and explore there.  Several locals have given me some suggestions on where to eat.

Once we eat and are secured safely back into the Motel 6 with the NCAA basketball tournament on, I’ll post a review on how the 2016 Ford Explorer handles and a little bit about the trip.

One last thing, Mark is in driver’s ed but doesn’t quite have his learner’s license yet.  In his (delusional) mind he was so close to test driving the Ford Explorer that he could taste it.  Then I told him that he had to be either 18 or 21 to be able to drive one which pretty much crushed his spirits, hopes, and dreams.  He was quite happy tonight to be able to ride in the front seat.  As he said, “all he had to do was picture being in the U.K. and it was like he was driving.”  I admire his spirit.

Turning 42

Stanley Thermos Travel MugIn about 60 minutes I turn 42.  I do however have to get to Saskatoon City Hospital so I can have a coban wrap put on my left leg so excuse me for posting this prematurely.

Rather than letting me sleep in during my old age, I was woken up early by Wendy, Mark, and Oliver.  Seems as if they didn’t get the company wide memo that I am old and need sleep.

They got the dog riled up (wasn’t she supposed to be walked?) and then gave me my gifts.

Oliver gave me a Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Venture WV Air Mattress. which will be great for hiking this summer.

Mark gave me the same Stanley travel mug he has.  It will keep my coffee hot long after it has become stale and gross.  He also gave me some Nike running gloves which will great in the evenings or if it gets cool while hiking.

Wendy also gave me a Fitbit Charge HR.  I have used my Nike Fuelband for years but this takes up a notch.

They all gave me an 11×14 Itoya Art Profolio Advantage portfolio.  Now I have to print out some photos for it.

For dinner tonight, they are talking me to the Bon Temps Cafe where we will dine out on some Cajun food and then meet up with some friends later.

Cell Phone Down

Yesterday Wendy came to me all upset and said she had dropped both of our iPhones.  Mine was fine but her phone had a smashed screen.  I wasn’t that upset.  Those things happen although two in a month (ahem Mark) was kind of painful.  When Mark broke his screen, I went to Costco and bought him a Acer Liquid Z410 for $130.  I picked up a 16gb Micro SD card from Don’s Photo for $15 and he was set.  For being so cheap, I was really happy with his phone.  It also has DTS Sound in it so even without a Bluetooth speaker the sound is good.

Wendy felt horrible but I was secretly happy.  Our contracts come up this summer with Bell and I had no idea what phone to get.  I was tempted to get some unlocked phones from Costco and save the money on our monthly bill.  I’m happy with Bell (and Mark is with Virgin) but it’s nice to have options.  Now I only have to figure out what I am going to do.  I am personally thinking of a Windows phone but I am always tempted to go back to Blackberry or a Windows Phone.

Acer Jade Z

Instead of picking up the Acer Liquid Z410, I got her the larger Acer Liquid Jade Z.

Features:

  • Display: 5-in. IPS TFT LCD
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth® 4.0 with EDR
  • Screen resolution: 1280 x 720
  • Operating system: Android™ 4.4 (KitKat)
  • Main camera: 13 MP AF with flash LED
  • Battery: Built-in 2,300 mAh rechargeable Li-polymer battery with up to 7 hours of talk time
  • Wi-Fi
  • Capture 30 fps FWVGA (MP4, H.264, H.263)
  • 720p video recording
  • Processor: Quad-core 1.5 GHz, MT6732
  • Dual micro SIM
  • 16 GB storage
  • 2GB RAM
  • MicroSD™ memory card expansion slot (card not included)
  • In-cell type touch lens with direct bonding
  • Side keys: volume up/down
  • Power key on top of device
  • LED indicator lights for charging, missed call, new message, lower battery
  • Google virtual keyboard
  • GPS Satellite data updates

For $220, it was a steal (way cheaper in store than online). 

The only thing  I don’t like about it is that it was a pain to find a case for it.  I ordered one for Wendy’s and Mark’s from Amazon.ca.  The price is right but they won’t be here until the end of March because I assume they are shipping from Taiwan or China.

Winter is almost here

I read this in The StarPhoenix today.  It was enough that I wanted to cancel my subscription. 

A special winter weather statement has been issued by Environment Canada for the City of Saskatoon.

According to a warning posted Monday afternoon on the Environment Canada website, an “intense low pressure system with a strong cold front will sweep across Saskatchewan Wednesday bringing an abrupt end to the mild November weather.”

Behind the cold front, temperatures will plummet to normal for this time of year, with overnight lows falling into the minus double digits, the national weather forecaster predicted.

Alongside a drop in temperatures, Environment Canada also predicts blustering northwesterly winds, with central and eastern sections of the province hit the hardest by gusts between 60 and 90 kilometres per hour expected.

I guess this means summer is over.  Sigh.  I missed it.

Most of you know that Wendy struggles with major depressive disorder.  She has written about it a lot if you care.  It comes every summer and has been horrible since Oliver was born.  It manifests itself in some severe self-destructive behavior and since we are married and have two sons, it affects the boys and I as much or more than it does her.

You know what, for the first time in over 15 years, it never made an appearance.

Some friends have asked what the difference is.  She has been on medication for years and that hasn’t always helped as a large part of the depression is psychological but for whatever reason, it hasn’t hit this year.  I have some theories but here is the one that makes the most sense.

Two Christmases ago, I gave her two cameras for Christmas.  I was working at Don’s Photo and Wendy had asked for a new compact camera.  Well actually she didn’t but her camera sucked and she was accepting that fact.  I bought a Fujifilm JX600 compact camera for her and later that season, someone traded in an Olympus PEN EPL-2.  I got a good deal on it and bought it for her.  She cried when she opened the gift.  She said that she would never need another lens but a week later, Olympus had their 40-150mm lens on sale for $103 so she bought that for herself.

Last Christmas I bought her a 19mm Sigma f/2.8 Art lens which she loved.  Later on she bought herself a Sigma 60mm f/2.8 Art lens which I’ll be honest, I don’t know if she ever uses.  In March, I used some Christmas bonus money and bought her an Olympus OM-D E-M10.  It’s not Olympus’ professional camera but it’s a great camera and she loved it.

Being sick this summer, plans to go to the Fringe or the Jazz Festival were changed.  I would go home and sleep while Wendy would go out with the boys, always bringing the camera.  Instead of waiting for me to take the lead, she would just do something.  I realized that photography had made her more independent and helped her fix her relationship with Mark that the depression had damaged.

If they weren’t off taking some photos at the SaskTel Jazz Festival, they were off walking along Broadway grabbing a coffee and shooting some street shots, or going to Waskesiu to explore a trail or five.

I also think the positive feedback makes a difference.  When she would post about Jian Ghomeshi’s alleged crimes this summer, she would get hateful comments.  When she wrote about violence towards women in Guyana, she got hate mail and even angry responses from her (Guyanese) parents.  When she posted photos on Flickr, she got favorites from photographers she respected and questions about lens and settings.  Maybe finding the right community makes all the difference.

So yeah, personally it was a crappy summer with a leg that keeps getting worse but as a family, it was a great summer because for the first time in a very long time, the grey clouds of depression never came by.

Christmas and Holiday Gift Guide for the Important Women in Your Life | 2015 Edition

Each year I put together some holiday and Christmas gift guides for the people in your life.  Wendy wrote the first one and here is my first one; a holiday and Christmas guide for the women in your life.  It could be your wife, maybe it is your mother or sister.  It could be a fiancee or a girlfriend.  Whoever it is, here is the guide.

Wendy is hard to shop for.  She never makes a list until it’s too late and doesn’t really crave a whole bunch of things which makes Christmas (and birthday) shopping hard.  In case your wife is awesome like Wendy but hard to shop for, here are some Christmas gift ideas to consider and hopefully surprise her with.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant

Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant

The alluring Original Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant, crafted in 925 Sterling Silver. This design is set with 1 Heart Shape stone prong set (simulated emerald is shown but there are many other options), 1 stone prong set colorless Round Cubic Zirconia. This product measures 8 mm wide, 18 mm long and is a great looking while affordable necklace and pendant.

Sterling Silver Infinity Created Blue Sapphire and Diamond Bracelet

Sterling Silver Infinity Created Blue Sapphire and Diamond Bracelet

  • Bracelet featuring oval-cut gemstones interspersed with diamond-accented infinity links
  • All the diamond suppliers for this bracelet confirm that they comply with the Kimberley Process to ensure that their diamonds are conflict free.

An elegant and timeless gift for the special women in your life.

Women’s Grey Titanium Round-Cut Pink Sapphire Ring with Pink Anodized Channel

Women's Grey Titanium Round-Cut Pink Sapphire Ring with Pink Anodized Channel

Simple, but stunning—like her.

Hudson’s Bay Fleece Blanket

Hudson’s Bay Fleece Blanket

Function and style combine with this fleece multi-coloured throw by the HBC Signature collection. It features a grip-tape handled carrying strap, signature colours and the softest fleece nap.  It looks great and will keep your loved ones warm.

Teardrop Terrarium with Pebbles and Moss

Teardrop Terrarium with Pebbles and Moss

This is a fun gift.  It is an Air Plant with clear glass hanging terrarium wide with glass bottom. Kit includes pebbles, moss, glass globe and air plant.  The kit is a great addition to any room at any price.

HP Steam 11 Netbook

HP Stream 11.6-Inch Laptop (Intel Celeron, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB SSD, Violet Purple)

Who says laptops have to be boring looking.  This is the HP Steam 11, a 11.6 inch laptop running Windows 10 for under $200.  It features:

  • Intel Celeron N3050 1.6 GHz Processor
  • 2 GB SDRAM
  • 32 GB Solid-State Drive
  • 11.6-Inch Screen
  • Windows 10

Since it has a SSD and low energy processor, it is a completely quiet design with no noisy fans going off every time the computer starts to work hard.

While the HP Steam 11 has gotten positive reviews, with only 32gb of hard drive space, you may want to add an external hard drive to the mix.  You can grab a 2 terabyte WD My Passport Ultra hard drive for well under $100 which will give her a lot of space for work, music, videos, and photos in a hard drive that can fit into her pocket.

WD My Passport Ultra Hard Drive

3-Piece Cheese Knife Set

Jean Dubost Laguiole 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set is a great holiday gift for anyone who loves hosting a great dinner party and doing so in style.

Jean Dubost Laguiole 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set

This set of cheese service knives includes a spreader for soft cheeses like Montrachet a serving knife for Gruyere and Gouda and a cleaver for hard cheeses such as Parmigiano. Sparkling stainless steel handles carry the signature logo of the Laguiole ‘Bee’. A wooden gift and storage box completes this gourmet set.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II mirrorless digital camera

I really want to recommend this camera.  I bought one for Wendy as soon as it came out.  Before it arrived in Saskatoon, there was a recall notice which has slowed up shipment of the camera while Olympus fixes old stock.   There are the highlights of the new system.

Sporting a classic design and sleek form factor, the silver OM-D E-M10 Mark II from Olympus is a mirrorless Micro Four Thirds digital camera featuring refined stills and movie recording capabilities to suit working in a variety of day-to-day environments. A high-resolution 16.1MP 4/3 Live MOS sensor pairs with the TruePic VII image processor to facilitate up to 8.5 fps shooting and full HD 1080p/60 movie recording, with a top sensitivity of ISO 25600. In-camera 5-axis image stabilization compensates for up to 4 stops of camera shake to benefit working in difficult lighting conditions and a FAST AF system employs 81 contrast-detection areas for quick, accurate performance with dedicated subject tracking modes. The retro-themed body incorporates a range of assignable function buttons and dials, as well as a 2.36m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder and 3.0″ 1.04m-dot tilting touchscreen LCD for clear image monitoring and playback. Besides the handsome appeal of the E-M10 Mark II’s design, its main assets lie in its versatility of shooting functions and performance to benefit photographers and videographers alike.

Benefited by the range of imaging capabilities, the E-M10 Mark II also incorporates a variety of shooting modes to suit working in various situations. A Silent Mode utilizes an electronic shutter for perfectly quiet picture-taking, with shutter speeds up to 1/16,000 sec. available. Live Bulb and Live Time modes are well-suited to creative long exposure photography and a dedicated Live Composite mode lets you watch a long exposure gradually build up during the course of the shot. Built-in Wi-Fi allows you to pair the camera with your smartphone or tablet for wireless sharing and remote camera control, and an interval shooting mode can be used to produce in-camera 4K time lapse movies.

The good news is that Olympus has put the existing and still excellent Olympus OM-D E-M10 on sale.  You can still get that and until it ships, I’ll link to it.

Aeropress Coffee and Espresso Maker

AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker

Up her coffee game in one of two ways.  If she likes to kick it old school, check out the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker.  Fast and convenient, the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker makes one of the best cups of coffee you’ll ever taste. This innovative uses the ideal water temperature and gentle air pressure brewing to produce coffee and espresso that has rich flavour with lower acidity and without bitterness. It makes 1 to 4 cups of coffee or espresso (enough for 1 or 2 mugs), features a micro filtered for grit free coffee, and takes just 1 minute to make coffee (actual press time takes only 20 seconds).  It’s the number one selling coffee press on Amazon for a reason.

BELLA Dots Collection 12-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker

BELLA Dots Collection 12-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker

Get her morning off to the right start with the Dots Programmable 12-Cup Coffee Maker. This fully programmable coffee maker brews coffee when and how she likes it, thanks to its countdown timer and brew-strength settings. If you can’t wait to take that first sip, the pause-and-serve feature lets you pour a cup while the coffee is still brewing. A permanent filter spares you the expense and waste of disposable filters, while the non-stick, stain-resistant warming plate makes cleanup fast and easy.

BELLA Dots Collection 12-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker

Did I mention that it comes in a variety of colours? No? Well they come in a variety of colors.

Timex Women’s “Ironman Traditional” Sport Watch

Timex Women’s "Ironman Traditional" Sport WatchWendy has sensitive skin and watches irritate her horribly.  So when I gave Wendy this Timex Ironman watch, she had some serious doubts over whether or not she could wear it.  A year later, she is still wearing it every day.  Because the watch and band are all one piece, it is an incredibly comfortable watch to wear.  Because it is from Timex, it takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.

Invicta Women’s Collection Limited Edition Diamond Chronograph Watch

Invicta Women's Collection Limited Edition Diamond Chronograph Watch

If you are looking for something more formal, there is this stunning limited-edition watch from Invicta’s II Collection features white diamonds set on a polished stainless steel bezel complete with an opulent mother-of-pearl dial.  She’ll wear it for years.

Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

The R H Forschner by Victorinox Chef’s Knife features an 8-inch blade that is 2-inches wide at the handle. High carbon, stainless steel blade is hand finished at Victorinox in Switzerland by skilled craftsmen. A special tempering process is used to produce an edge that can be re-sharpened over and over again, so the knife can keep its original sharpness throughout the entire life of the blade.  There is a reason why it is the best selling chef’s knife at Amazon.

Humans of New YorkHumans of New York

Based on the blog with more than four million loyal fans, a beautiful, heartfelt, funny, and inspiring collection of photographs and stories capturing the spirit of a city

Now an instant #1 New York Times bestseller, Humans of New York began in the summer of 2010, when photographer Brandon Stanton set out to create a photographic census of New York City. Armed with his camera, he began crisscrossing the city, covering thousands of miles on foot, all in an attempt to capture New Yorkers and their stories. The result of these efforts was a vibrant blog he called “Humans of New York,” in which his photos were featured alongside quotes and anecdotes.

Omnia Bvlgari 2.2 oz. Eau De Perfume Spray For Women

This is the newest, light, modern Oriental scent fragrance for women. Omnia by Bvlgari has fragrance notes of mandarin, saffron, Masala Tea and white chocolate blended together.

Omnia Bvlgari 2.2 oz. Eau De Perfume Spray For Women

Splash Tunes Pro – The Perfect Bluetooth Shower Speaker

Splash Tunes Pro - The Perfect Bluetooth Shower Speaker

We have tried a variety of shower radios over the years but they all kind of suck.  Lots of static, batteries wear out, and you are stuck trying to figure out what radio station to shower to.  With this one, the women in your life can leave their iPod or iPhone outside the bathroom safe from all of the humidity while streaming their early morning playlist to this Bluetooth speaker.  If they want to listen to the radio, they can still stream the TuneIn or local radio station app.  If you are lucky, they will let you use it and you can listen to ESPN in the shower.  Win, win, win.

Sennheiser HD 202 Headphones

Sennheisser HD 202 Headphones

I bought Wendy a pair of these last year for Christmas.  They are the best selling over the ear headphones on Amazon and are consistently rated as one of the best pair of headphones you can get for the money.  A good pair of headphones gives you a time out from the day and is a great way to relax and shut out the outside world.   The difference between these headphones and the cheap pair that came with your iPhone or Android phone is significant.

Bath Bomb Gift Set

Bath Bomb Gift Set

Treat her after a long day with  this bath bomb set.  There is the following scents

  • RELAXATION (Lavender)
  • DETOX (Vanilla)
  • ENERGIZE (Grapefruit)
  • DESTRESS, SINUS (Peppermint)
  • CONGESTION RELIEF (Eucalyptus)

She’s love it and leave the bath feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

Cenzo Duffle Vecchio Brown Italian Leather Weekender Travel Bag

Cenzo Duffle Vecchio Brown Italian Leather Weekender Travel Bag

Surprise her with a leather weekend bag made from Italian calf leather with brass hardware.  Make it an even bigger surprise and put something into the bag like tickets for a weekend getaway.

Wendy suggested a new shaving kit when she did up the gift guide for men so I am doing the same here for women.

Genuine Leather Hanging Toiletry Travel Bag

Genuine Leather Hanging Toiletry Travel Bag

The Genuine Leather Hanging Toiletry Travel Bag is a staple for the organized traveler. From its rich, 100% genuine leather exterior to its spacious interior compartments, this travel bag has it all! Designed to hold toiletry items of all shapes and sizes, this compact travel bag unzips to reveal two separate zippered compartments, two elastic pockets, and one large compartment. A stainless steel metal hanger extends from the top interior compartment, letting you hang the toiletry bag to maximize your counter space. The small exterior pocket is perfect for holding jewelry or any other last-minute item you might think of.

In it make sure there is:

Schick Hydro Silk Razor

The Grammercy Tavern Cookbook

The Grammercy Tavern Cookbook

One of the best New York restaurants, a culinary landmark that has been changing the face of American dining for decades, now shares its beloved recipes, stories, and pioneering philosophy. Now they are sharing their famous recipes which means this is a gift for you both to use in the kitchen.

Sephora Collection Beautiful Crush Blockbuster Palette 2015

Sephora Collection Beautiful Crush Blockbuster Palette 2015

While you are at it, get her a makeup set with this years top colors.  Makeup in 128 colors-72 eye shadows, 18 cream eyeliners, 32 lip glosses, and six blushes-allows for an almost infinite number of looks. The palette is organized vertically by color family and features a built-in mirror for super easy and foolproof makeup application every time.

If she loves to cook, how about one of these amazing cookbooks this year?

Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan CuisineA cookbook from acclaimed London restaurant Nopi, by powerhouse author Yotam Ottolenghi and Nopi head chef Ramael Scully.The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through ScienceGjelina: Cooking from Venice, CaliforniaTacos: Recipes and ProvocationsLucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian RecipesMennonite Girls Can Cook

It’s always hard to shop for the women on your Christmas and holiday gift list but hopefully this made it a little easier for you, no matter who you are shopping for.  If you have any comments or think I missed something the world should know about, let me know in the comments.  Of course if the person you are shopping for is a cook, check out Wendy’s Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for the Cook and Foodie.

Christmas-Gift-Guide[2]

Holiday Gift Guides

18 years

I have been married for 18 years today to Wendy.   I was off all week from work so she was pretty much sick of me by the time today came around.

It was a long week.  We had a deal with Mark that he had to work hard in school and hand in all of his homework on time if he wanted to play football.  After backing down and giving him one more chance earlier in the year, he did it again and so I made the really hard choice to say, “no more football.”  He was mad, hurt, and frustrated but on Thursday we had a long talk about it and on Friday we went for breakfast and he understood that football was hurting him academically.

Of course the reason we went for breakfast on Friday was he was out of school because of parent teacher interviews.  His teachers love him, his marks are good but they would be amazing if he got his assignments done.  It was good for him to hear both those messages. 

Yesterday I was sick again.  The infectious disease specialist warned me that I could have flare ups of the infection and yesterday was horrible.  I had a fever, was in incredible pain, and even was struggling to breath.  I slept for a lot of the day and then Wendy and I went out to The Odd Couple restaurant and had a wonderful time.  We had plans to go out for a drink afterwards but I was exhausted so we cam home.

Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 II ASPH. LensI gave Wendy a new lens for our anniversary.  It’s a Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 II ASPH. Lens.  She has some good lenses but nothing this fast and so she is excited about it.  I had bought it a couple of months ago and she knew she was getting one.  I gave it to her early for Nuit Blanche.  She tested it out on this photo shoot with Marley.

I also got her a backpacking hammock.  Wendy works hard and doesn’t always take the time to relax.  My fear was with us in the mountains was that she was going to spend a lot of time making sure we were happy and not enough time chilling out.  This way I can force her (or guilt her) into taking some time and spending it on herself.  She liked it and I was happy with that.

She gave me a Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW camera bag.   I had been looking for a camera bag that can carry all of my stuff, plus some of the stuff I want to buy.  This bag basically is the bag to rule all of my bags.  That and Mark is thrilled because he can have my old bag.

So now I basically look like a balding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.  If you hear reports of middle age and balding mutant ninja turtles turned vigilante in the sewers of Saskatoon, I have an alibi.

She also got me an Altec Lansing Soundblade which will sound great in the living room.

Christmas Gift Guide for the Men in Your Life | 2015 Edition

It’s Wendy again.  I am here to write and publish this year’s inaugural Christmas Gift Guide on jordoncooper.com.  As is custom around here, this is for all of the men on your holiday check list.  So whether you are shopping for a husband, boyfriend (hopefully you aren’t shopping for both), father, kids, or friends, I’ve got gift ideas for all of the men in your life.

Audio

Does anyone use CD’s anymore?  We don’t.  If we do get them, they are immediately ripped and then imported into iTunes to be played on our iPods.  From there they are played via Bluetooth.  So here is a selection of portable Bluetooth devices that will sound amazing anywhere that you bring them, even if the guy you are shopping for loves to play Bon Jovi.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. It’s hands-free and always on. With seven microphones and beam-forming technology, Echo can hear you from across the room—even while music is playing. Echo is also an expertly tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound.

Echo connects to Alexa, a cloud-based voice service, to provide information, answer questions, play music, read the news, check sports scores or the weather, and more—instantly. All you have to do is ask. Echo begins working as soon as it detects the wake word. You can pick Alexa or Amazon as your wake word.

Think of it at Siri for your home… or for you Iron Man fans out there, it’s getting close to what Jarvis is.

Amazon ECHOAmazon ECHO

Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III

Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III

The SoundLink Bluetooth speakers are among the most popular — if not, the most popular — portable wireless speakers in terms of sales.   I have listened to it a couple of times while out and about this year and they sounds amazing while filling a room beautifully.  Not only that but if you bring them on the road with your or even just into the backyard, they have a 14 hour battery life.

  • Purchase at AmazonHouse of Marley Chant Portable Bluetooth Audio System 

    House of Marley Chant Portable Bluetooth Audio System

    Jordon has wanted one of these for a while.  This spring he went out and bought one.  It is battery powered (charges via a USB cable) and is a constant companion.  It is small enough to toss in a bag on a road trip which makes travelling a little more pleasant.  If you are buying for a road warrior or just someone who likes to chill outside while listening to music, this is a great gift idea.

  • Purchase at AmazonLogitech UE Mini BoomLogitech UE Mini Boom

    This is what The Wirecutter says about the Mini Boom

    This is the second year in a row that we’ve picked the Mini Boom as our top pick, but it’s the first time I’ve personally heard it. As an audio reviewer with a quarter century of experience, people often ask me what portable speaker they should get. It’s a difficult question to answer because they come in so many styles and sizes, and widely range in price, but the Mini Boom makes it easy.

    There’s so much to like about it and so little to dislike. In fact, if all my stuff disappeared tomorrow, the Mini Boom and our home Bluetooth pick would be the first audio products I’d buy. It plays about as loud as a large flat-panel TV set, and because it’s only about the size of half an orange, it’s easy to take almost anywhere. It sounds good enough that you can hear almost every element of a music track, from the cymbals all the way down to the lowest notes on a guitar (although maybe not the lowest notes on a bass).

    I have always thought of Logitech in terms of mice and trackballs.  Then Jordon went out and got a set of Logitech surround sound speakers for our television and I was surprised at how good they sound.  They had a way better sound than our soundbar and in 5.1 Dolby surround sound.  This little speaker has won a lot of awards and a lot of acclaim.  Logitech may not have the name that Bose does but it is a third the price and the sound quality is worth it.

  • Purchase at Amazon

Electrohome Archer Vinyl Record Player Classic Turntable Stereo System with Built-in Speakers

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Backed by over 100 years of manufacturing high-quality audio products, Electrohome is pleased to introduce the Archer Turntable Stereo System: a fully automatic turntable with built-in speakers housed in a 60s-style suitcase that blends vintage charm with twenty-first century convenience.

Enjoying the classic style of a retro 60s turntable doesn’t mean you have to miss out on 21st century convenience; play songs from your smartphones, tablets, or USB flash drive using the system’s AUX and USB input. For private listening, simply connect your headphones and drift away into the world of vinyl without disturbing a soul.

It’s also the gift that keeps giving you gift ideas. From speakers to vintage records, there will always something you can keep adding to this gift.

Now on to headphones for those times when you don’t want to listen to what they are listening to.

Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones

Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones

These amazing headphones are the #1 best selling over the ear headphones from Amazon and for good reason.  They are consistently rated as excellent.  The Sennheiser HD 202 II are closed, dynamic hi-fi stereo headphones. Good insulation against ambient noise and a deep bass response make them the ideal companion for DJs – or anyone who likes to listen to modern, powerful music without disturbing others. High efficiency drivers for maximum performance.   Jordon bought me a pair to replace my other Sennheisers that Marley chewed up.  What you notice about them is the sound but also how comfortable they are.  You can listen to them for hours.

  • Purchase at AmazonIn Ear HeadphonesDon’t let them keep using the Apple earphones that came with their phone.  Upgrade their in-ear headphones with Brainwavz Delta Red In Ear Earphones With Remote & Mic.

    Brainwavz Delta Red In Ear Earphones With Remote & Mic

    Never heard of them?  Here is what The Wirecutter has to say about them.

    If I wanted to buy a cheap pair of earbuds to replace the ones included with my mobile device, I’d get the Brainwavz Delta with Mic. After spending 32 hours researching literally hundreds of in-ear headphones under $40, then seriously considering 179 and testing 68 with our panel of audio experts (40 last time, 28 this round), we came to a decision: The Brainwavz Deltas are the best for the money. Our panel unanimously voted them the best sounding of the entire bunch, plus they fit comfortably in most ears and are a total steal.

  • Purchase at AmazonPanasonic RP-TCM125-A In Ear HeadphonesMy next suggestion is ones that we are big fans of around here and that is the Panasonic RPTCM125A Headphones Blue.  They were the winner last year on The Wirecutter and are runners up this year.  Here is why we love them.  The sound is excellent, the price is fantastic but they are so comfortable.  We have bought them for Mark and the advantage of getting these over more expensive headphones is that when the dog chews them, they get lost or stolen, it’s not the end of the world.  Great quality, comfortable, affordable price.

    Panasonic RP-TCM125-A In Ear Headphones

  • Purchase at AmazonComputersWe spend all of these hours in front of our computers and for many people. they are still using the same keyboard and mouse that came out of the box with their desktop or laptop.  Upgrade their computer with a new keyboard, mouse, or trackball.  It’s a great gift and his hands will thank you for it.

    Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard

    Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard

    If the guy you are buying for spends a lot of time in front of computer as a writer, photo editor, or coder, get him a keyboard that is better that what came with her computer.  Perhaps one of the best ones out there is the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard.  It is split in the middle, has a nice touch and feel, and has a built in pad for your wrists.  Studies are inconclusive on whether or not they prevent carpal tunnel but they are a lot more comfortable to type on than a desktop or laptop computer keyboard.

  • Purchase from AmazonLogitech M570 Wireless TrackballLogitech M570 Wireless Trackball

    A trackball is something that so many people I know have loved as soon as they have gone to it yet it isn’t something that many of us are going to go out and get for ourselves.  One of these or a Microsoft Sculpt or Arc Touch mouse and the sculpt keyboard would be a great gift for any one who spends some time in front of a screen every day.

  • Purchase at AmazonLogitech HD Pro WebcamLogitech HD Pro Webcam

    Being seperated from family is tough.  So whether you are shopping for your husband, boyfriend, or father, treat them with a high definition webcam.  You can get one for them so you can benefit or get one and place it on your own computer so they can see you better.  Ideally you will both have one so you can have conversations in 1080p High Definition video.

    Breathtaking full HD 1080p calls on Skype, with the sharpest video-call picture available. 16:9 widescreen keeps you all in the picture. Easy HD 720p video calls on Yahoo! Messenger, Gmail Voice and Video Chat and most other favorite IM services.

    If he is still getting by on a 640×480 screen, upgrading to a Full HD webcam will make a world of difference.

  • Purchase at AmazonTabletsSo many of us have tablets now that we have even started to upgrade our older ones.  If the person you are shopping for has a tablet that is more than a few years old, it is time to upgrade it.  New processor, better battery life, and overall performance makes this upgrade a great gift.

    Amazon Fire 7” Tablet

    Amazon Fire 7" Tablet

    $49.99 for a tablet! Are you kidding me Amazon?  Despite the really low price, it has a Quad-core 1.3 GHz, 8 gb of storage (expandable of course), a VGA Front-facing camera + 2 MP rear-facing camera with 720p HD video recording.   As for battery life, it offers up to 7 hours of reading, surfing the web, watching video, and listening to music

  • Purchase at Amazon (where else?)Google Nexus 9” TabletGoogle Nexus 9 Tablet

    If the Kindle Fire is the best Android budget tablet out there, then here is the flagship, the Google Nexus 9.

  • 8.9” IPS LCD display with 4:3 aspect ratio constructed from Gorilla Glass 3
  • Dual front-facing speakers with HTC BoomSound
  • 8MP rear camera – 1.6MP front camera
  • 64-bit NVIDIA Tegra K1 Dual Denver @ 2.3GHz CPU
  • Micro-USB 2.0For the accept no compromises Android user out there, this is the tablet they want.
  • Purchase at AmazoniPad Mini 4Apple iPad Mini 4

     

  • Purchase from Apple

Give the gift of a great book this year.

The Generals: Patton, MacArthur, Marshall, and the Winning of World War IIDevotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and SacrificeBetween the World and MeDestiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker BushThe Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball 81 Days Below Zero: The Incredible Survival Story of a World War II Pilot in Alaska's Frozen Wilderness

Kenneth Cole Reaction Leather Messenger Bag

Kenneth Cole Reaction leather messenger bag

 

Upgrade his shoulder bag or backpack with a leather 4 inch double gusset flapover portfolio/ 15.4 inch computer case with pull through handle.  Stylish enough to take to work everyday and rugged enough to take with him on the weekends.

Fossil Card Wallet

Fossil Men's Bradley Slim Card Case

If he already has a great looking bag or maybe you are looking for something less expensive, check out the Fossil card wallet.  Jordon went to one of these a couple of years ago and he has loved it.  Low profile, fits in any pocket and carries enough cards and I.D. to keep you going while forcing you to ditch the other stuff that clutters up a wallet and weighs you down.

Timex Expedition Field Watch

Timex Expedition Field Watch

The Timex Expedition field watch were inspired by the field watches issued to soldiers during the first half of the 20th century and look great with a wide variety of get-ups. While there are more expensive name-brand versions out there, if you’re looking for a simple, yet handsome-looking watch, this is perfect.  You can spend hundreds on a field watch but it’s hard to beat the quality you get from a Timex Expedition for the cost you are paying.

Spend your hard earned money on other things with the money you save on this watch.

Outdoors

Nikon Travelite VI 8×25 Binoculars

There is always a pair of binoculars in Jordon’s day bag.  For years they have been a pair of Nikon’s because you can’t beat the quality of the optics for the cost and portability. Nikon Travelite 8x25 Binoculars

A rubber armored carbon fiber body offers lightweight and impact-resistant performance, and the contoured body with textured gripping surfaces provide slip-resistant handling, making the Travelite VI well-suited for sightseeing on vacation and glassing the ball field from the stands.  Reviewers in multiple publications have said that these are the perfect balance between power and weight with no compromises either way.

Gerber Ripstop I Knife

Gerber Ripstop I Knife

Jordon started to carry this in his pocket because he wanted something small and functional for work.  This fit the bill perfectly.   He has one for every day use and then he keeps packed and ready to go in his day bag.  He likes this knife because it is big enough to do what he needs it to do most days but small enough to fold up and fit comfortably in his front pocket.  It’s also small enough that when he pulls it out at work, no one goes, “HE’S GOT A KNIFE!”.  Instead they often go, “cool” and want to take a look at it.

Leatherman Skeletool CX Multi-tool

Get back to basics — the very cool basics — with Leatherman’s Skeletool CX.  It keeps weight and volume to a minimum while still having the tools he will need.

Leatherman Skeletool CX Multi-tool

Stanley Mountain Vacuum Coffee System

Stanley Mountain Coffee System

The thing that stops so many people from camping…the perception that they have to "suffer" out there and can’t enjoy the comforts of home. Instead, Stanley said, "Oh no, nobody goes without good coffee while camping…not on our watch!"

The entire system might look a little bit like overkill, but when you keep in mind the fact that the components are all useful for other purposes this system does far more than just make coffee.

First of all, they thought of everything with this kit. The bottom (outside) layer is the pot to heat your water, complete with latching pre-installed handle. Just give the small button a squeeze to lift it up or put it down. This layer is obviously a great pot for heating up your meals too, especially if you pre-pouched it and just need to reheat with a hot water bath. The next layer is the French press plunger, and yes, if you pour really, really carefully, you can strain other foods with it (like pasta) when you’re not making coffee. The next nested layer is the famous Stanley vacuum bottle, so basically you use your kit to make a whole pot of coffee and then pour it into the bottle to keep it hot. The lid that closes the bottle actually has a small twist off lid the store your coffee grounds, and the exterior lid twists apart to form two cups.

Gourmet coffee.  In the woods.  He’ll love it.

If he likes to cook and grill, check out these fun books for aspiring chef.

Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint The Essential Guys' Cookbook by Company's ComingCompany's Coming Cooking With BeerEat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever NeedGordon Ramsay's Sunday LunchThe Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science

While you are at it, consider upgrading his grill.  The Weber Original Kettle Barbecue is the best selling grill on Amazon and is less then $100.

Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock

Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock

Light and compact enough for backpacking, yet robust enough for backyard luxury, the popular ENO DoubleNest Hammock sets up in seconds and has plenty of room for 2.

Moleskine Classic Notebook

Every man needs to keep a journal and this basic, yet classic Large Plain notebook is one that he will want to keep this thoughts and projects in. This reliable travel companion, perfect for sketches, thoughts and passing notes, has a cardboard bound cover with rounded corners, acid free paper, a bookmark, an elastic closure and an expandable inner pocket that contains the Moleskine history.

Sphero BB-8 Droid

Sphero BB-8 app enabled droid

This gift hits two big things in your guys life

  • It from the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie which if he is like most guys, is dying to see.
  • It’s a programmable robot which he wanted since Tomy released the Omnibot.

This is THE toy of the holiday season and is one that the entire family will get a kick out of.  If the guy you are shopping for still enjoys a remote controlled car, a drone, or just having fun, make sure you check out this gift and pick up one early, they won’t be around as we get towards Christmas.

  • Authentic Movement: Guide your BB-8 with a smartphone or tablet
  • Listens & Responds: BB-8 recognizes and reacts to your voice
  • Holographic Messaging: Record and view virtual holographic videos with BB-8
  • Autonomous Behavior: BB-8 has a mind of its own – explore the Star Wars galaxy together
  • Adaptive Personality: Your BB-8’s unique attitude and actions evolve as you interact

 

Adobe Photoshop Elements 14 | Corel Paint Shop Pro X8

Adobe Photoshop Elements 14Corel Paint Shop Pro X8

If he is a creative type and a photographer, get him some software that will fuel that creativity.  While the Adobe Creative Cloud is excellent, you have to pay for it monthly.  As an alternative Adobe has Photoshop Element and Corel has Paint Shop Pro 18.  Both will help him (and you) create your best photographs ever whether you are using a Nikon D810 or a iPhone 4.

Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone

Blue Microphone Yet USB microphone

If he is a podcaster or musician, check out the Blue Microphone Yet USB microphone.  It allows you to record just yourself, a conversation with two people or an entire room of people.  Great sound, solid design, and a lot of fun as he takes his first steps towards being an internet sensation.

Shure MV88 iOS Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone

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Another option for the aspiring radio star is this Shure microphone for any iOS device with a Lightning connector.  Compact enough to fit in a pocket and be with you anywhere at anytime.

  • Apple MFi certified compatible with all iOS devices equipped with a Lightning connector
  • Matched cardioid and bi-directional 1 cm cartridges for best-in-class audio
  • Mid-side architecture for a phase-perfect, clear stereo image
  • 5 DSP preset modes (Speech, Singing, Flat, Acoustic Instrument, Loud)
  • Automatically adjusts EQ, compression and limiting for optimal results
  • Innovative hinge/rotation design supports multiple recording angles, including video applications
  • Free ShurePlus MOTIV recording app featuring 24-bit/48 khz .wav (uncompressed) recording,control over DSP mode selection, microphone gain, stereo width, raw mid-side adjustments, wind reduction, capsule selection, Left-Right Swap, 5-band EQ and compression/limiting
  • All-metal construction engineered to withstand the most demanding recording conditions

 

Zippo Lighter

Zippo Lighter

Since 1932, Zippo has been making the finest and hardiest fire-making machine around. The Zippo is refillable, and nearly every part is replaceable, meaning the engraved metal casing given to your guy that will last just about forever.  Even if he doesn’t smoke, he’ll love having one.

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife

This is the knife that MacGuyver (and the Swiss military) made famous –

  • 2 Blades, 2 Screwdrivers, Wood Saw and other handy tools
  • Corkscrew, Reamer and Key Ring
  • Toothpick and Tweezers

Camper II Swiss Army Knife from Victorinox

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My 2016 Mayoral Campaign

I was asked a few times today if I was going to run for Mayor in 2016.  The answer is no.  I have no political aspirations and have no desire to be a politician.   That and I don’t like ties or suits.  Even if I did, big boned and balding politicians generally don’t do that well… wait a minute, we do really well in politics.

I have very little respect for career politicians.  There are many people I know (and we all have our lists) that desperately want to be elected to something and want to remain elected for financial, prestige, or even retirement reasons (I have heard of politicians whose entire retirement planning is based on getting elected and then government pension).  They see politics as a career and as a path to greater political power.  I don’t aspire to that.  I have control of the both the TV remote and the Apple TV remote at home.  I’m good.

I have a lot of respect for those that are public servants.  Those are people who are drawn to the service of their city, province, and country and that is the main motivating factor for them.  The problem is that most politicians start out that way but it’s a fine line until you transform into a politician where re-election comes before doing what is right.   Some public servants can be elected for decades and serve only the public.  I think of the Joe Clark’s, John Crosbie’s, or the countless MP, MLAs, and councillors that care far more about constituent issues and the big picture than party politics or personal gain.  They avoid the meanness that defines many politicians and they genuinely love their jobs.  I think they are great but I still wouldn’t want to be one.  I simply lack the desire to compromise on things and in our system, it is based on compromise and doing things you hate.

Then you also have the campaign fight.  That can’t be a lot of fun.  I remember door knocking a couple of decades ago and a guy came to the door with a shot gun, I was bit by a stray dog, and some naked women answered her door.  No wonder Atch stands on the streets and waves at cars.  Who can blame him?  If I was him I’d have a small portable fence with me at all times.  If someone from the media questioned me, I’d have them stand outside the fence and deal with the dogs.

I was out with some candidates and councillors years ago and they were talking about lawn sign stake storage and what a pain that is.  So let me get this straight, you win office and instead of celebrating, you have to clean out your shed and build extra storage for the stuff you need for the next campaign.  Wendy would not be pleased with that.  We have a small house, we don’t have a lot of storage.  She’d be out campaigning for Atch or Charlie Clark on the provision that they took all of the lawn sign stakes when I lost.

I’d be going, “How does the other campaigns get all of these leaks from?” and Wendy and Mark would be avoiding making eye contact with me as they easily moved stuff in and out of our shed.  Okay, that would be hilarious but still.

Also, the being recognized in public part is both good and bad.  Bad when someone tells me how stupid I am in front of my kids.  Good when they say nice things to me but I still find myself going, “please don’t punch me in the face” when someone goes, “Aren’t you Jordon Cooper?”.  Of course I could just be like one councillor who makes me go, “I thought they quit council” the rare time they speak. 

I guess I could run against Darren Hill but here is a list of his accomplishments in office and my position on them.

Darren Hill’s Record in Office

Jordon Cooper’s Position

Avenue B Diverter in Mayfair

Thought it was a good idea

Thought the Cosmo deal was a costly mistake

Totally

Disagrees with 33rd Street Bridge and says it would be built over his dead body.

We agree with that too although I hope no one has to die to stop it.

Wears colourful socks

Wears plain socks

Wears colourful ties

Has a tie just like Rob Ford’s NFL tie but has NHL logos on it.  Wishes he had a tie like Rob Ford’s NFL tie.  Would also wear a MLB tie.  Now that I think about it, that is a solid three tie rotation. 

Suggested that we wait a few years to buy a new city website when prices were lower.

Umm, yeah.

Tweets at celebrities

Does that actually work? (update: Darren says it does.)

Tweets at City Council Meetings

Tweets about confidential in-camera meetings that he read about in The StarPhoenix.

Ran for the federal Liberal Party after two terms as councillor.

Criticized Hill, Paulsen, Olauson, and Donauer for doing the same thing and not resigning their seat.

Non committal about in Council Twitter Wall.

Totally in favour of Twitter wall.   Really, really in favour of a Twitter wall.  Have I mentioned how badly I want City Council to have a live twitter wall. 

That would be a riveting debate.  I can see the moderator saying, “So the only area where you truly disagree is men’s socks.  Well let’s go back to that issue once more and Mr. Cooper, could you tell us where you got that NFL logo tie from?”

So after reading that chart over, I am not running in Ward 1 or anywhere else in the city since I live in Ward 1.  Darren is doing a fine job… well there was the vote where he voted to “right size the bridge” that was waste of tens of millions of dollars.   Nor do I ever aspire to being on Saskatoon City Council not now and not in the future.  Here is why.

Outside of Wendy and the boys, not many people have seen how sick I have been this summer.  It has scared Wendy and even made me wonder from time to time if I was going to make it.   I have never been so sick in my life and it hasn’t been fun.  Today my vital signs were so out of whack, the nurses freaked out and that happens all of the time.  There is no way I am strong enough to make it through a campaign even if I did want to.  I have never seriously considered it but I need get rid of the MRSA infection in my ankle and then get healthy again. 

I have been married with 18 years this week to Wendy and for the first time since we have been married, her depression and mental health issues are under control.  You have no idea how many times I have said, “next summer” will be better (well actually about 16 summers).  To actually have a summer trip go well and her depression be managed was a huge thing in life but we have a lot of catching up to do.

Those lost summers have come with a price of me being there for Wendy and not having the time to spend with Mark and Oliver.   It’s why next summer is being spent in the backcountry of Banff and Kootney National Parks.  The only door knocking I plan to do is at the door of a mountain tea house at the end of a long hike (I hope I don’t get bit by anything)

I don’t know how politicians handle their commitments to the public and family.   Is there a less family friendly job then being a politician at any level?  For this I am not being sarcastic, I can’t imagine how hard it is to juggle all of that well. I enjoy being a dad.

So my plans are set for election night 2016, vote and watch Monday Night Football while writing about those that did decide to run.  That is my goal for 2020, 2024, and 2028.  It is also my goal for any and all provincial and federal campaigns.  I have even a less of a desire to be told how to vote by a government or opposition whip who got the job because they are difficult to deal with in Question Period.

So yeah, I am never running for public office but thanks for suggesting it.  Throw your support behind someone that wants the job, there are some good ones out there, support them.