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Gifts for Outdoor Lovers December 17, 2010

Filed under: Consumer Goods — shinypackages @ 10:17 am

When it comes to enjoying the great outdoors, there’s no reason to feel like Randy. You remember Randy? He’s Ralphie’s little brother from A Christmas Story, the 1983 movie about the most wonderful time of the year. Poor Randy was bundled up so tight in a one-piece snowsuit that he couldn’t put his arms down. Things got even worse when he was knocked into a snowbank and couldn’t get back on his feet.

Don’t be a Randy this winter. Luckily, enjoying life outdoors in winter has become a lot easier thanks to huge leaps in clothing technology.

The worst thing you can do is wear heavy jeans and a massive parka when it comes to playing outdoors. The secret, as you may have heard, is in layering. Your dual goals in this exercise are moisture control and warmth. And it all starts with the base layer (in the olden days, we called this long underwear).

You have a choice of several base layer fabrics, each with a unique set of properties. The three most common are silk, polypropylene or wool. The first two will do a fine job of pulling sweat away from your skin, which will make you feel warmer and more comfortable. Wool will wick moisture too, plus it’s a lot warmer and has natural odor resistance (especially compared with polypropylene which gets smelly very quickly).

My money is on the new crop of Merino wool base layer garments. This fine fabric eliminates the itch commonly associated with wool, plus adds a layer of warmth that you’ll appreciate on the coldest of days.

After the base layer, load up with as many warm layers as you figure you’ll need. These can take the form of fleece hoodies, wool sweaters, light down parkas or insulated pants. The final layer, called the shell, is an important addition if you need to block wind or water (from falling snow). Choose a shell that’s waterproof and breathable.

Now that you’re all suited up, it’s time to get out there and have some fun. Here’s a collection of gift ideas to help you make friends with Old Man Winter.

The Tilley Aviator

Possibly the hippest Tilley hat around, this one has a rain and snow repellent wool exterior and has a genuine shearling interior. The smallish ear flaps that can be buttoned up to help you hear. Like all Tilley products, it’s guaranteed for life not to wear out and insured against loss. $135

Journeys Travel & Leisure Supercentre
102-326 Wardlaw Ave.

Kodak PlaySport

This video camera is rugged, waterproof and compact—perfect for that warp speed ride down the toboggan hill. It records in full 1080p HD (plus a couple of other modes) and comes with built-in software for easy sharing on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. It also works as a 5 MP camera. $159.95
At Best Buy, Future Shop, Walmart or at

Ryder Goggles

The Shore is a new model for downhill mountain biking. Yes, you read that correctly. This pair features shatterproof double lenses with integrated tear off posts, a vented frame, 100 per cent uv protection and a fog resistant coating—all very important while engaging in this somewhat risky behaviour. $49.99

Visit for where to buy or call 1-800-665-2903

Coleman Mummy Bag

There are those among us that camp in the winter. That means sleeping outdoors. Luckily, there’s a bag for that. The mummy shape fits snugly around the body, plus there are drawstrings around the shoulders and head to keep out the draft. It has a rating of -17°C. Let’s just hope there’s no wind chill. $99.99

At some Canadian Tire stores or always online at

GV Kid’s Trail Snowshoes

Easy to adjust, freeze-free and lightweight. Oh why can’t all snowshoes be this easy? For kids up to nine years old, these snowshoes fit over any winter boot. Strap them on and let them fly around the park. They even come in pink!

1300 Ellice Ave.

MEC Merino Long Johns

Keeping warm is all about the base layer. Make a good choice for what’s next to your skin and you’ll be good to go all day long. These long johns are soft, itch-free, stretchy and they pull moisture away from your skin. Plus they’re stylish enough to wear around the cottage as pajamas. In men’s and women’s colours and sizes. $62.

Mountain Equipment Co-op
303 Portage Ave.

Thermos Tumbler

Finding a travel mug that actually keeps your coffee hot is easier said than done. This one performs like a rock star, and looks pretty good doing it. The double wall vacuum insulation helps your bevies stay hot for up to five hours. Plus it features a built-in tea hook, which easily holds tea bags or most loose leaf infusers. Leak-proof lid with one-hand, push button operation $27.99

Available at London Drugs, Canadian Tire and Walmart.

The North Face Maplekat Boot

The North Face has become a big brand for one simple reason. It’s great stuff. These do-anything winter boots are super grippy for treacherous surfaces—like your driveway. They’re great for snowshoeing, a winter hike or a snowmobile ride. Available in a couple of colours for both women and men.

1300 Ellice Ave.

KOBO: What’s in My Library December 15, 2010

Filed under: Consumer Goods — shinypackages @ 10:48 am

Here’s a partial list of the books I have downloaded and read since getting my iPad in April. I use the Kobo app. do you detect a pattern?



Christmas Shopping: An Antique Gift

Filed under: Consumer Goods — shinypackages @ 8:56 am

Originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press Last Minute Gift Guide, December 15, 2010


Temptation must be conquered.

When you’re in an antique shop looking for a Christmas gift, please remember that this isn’t about you.

“Your tastes may be very different from what the recipient might want. I know it’s difficult to do because we have so many lovely things here,” says Flic Trott, a 50-year volunteer at Things Antiques and Gifts. Yes, 50 years of volunteering with the Women’s Committee of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, purveyors of this Corydon Avenue shop.

Shop co-manager Judy Fields adds that sticking to a budget may also help narrow your choices and finally make a selection. “We really do have price points for every customer. If you don’t mind buying something that someone else has had, you can really find some bargains.”

There are delightful turquoise rings and elegant glass bowls in the $25 range. And then there are more substantial selections such as the 59-piece set of Birks sterling flatware, priced at $1,800. A new set of this quality would easily cost twice of three times as much.

Things Antiques and Gifts accepts pieces on consignment as well as outright donations. The proceeds go to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. The shop has a loyal following of regulars who are always on the hunt for pieces to add to their collections, whether it be tiny Hummels or cream and sugar sets, but only of the sugar bowls do not have lids.

“People buy for themselves and they buy for others, and every interest is so unique. There are things I am not remotely interested in that others absolutely love,” added Trott.

Both Trott and Field agree that the joy of working in the shop is hearing the stories of the pieces that come in and perhaps learning a thing or two.

“Some customers come in and say I want a piece of silver. We ask if they want sterling or silver plate, and sometimes they don’t know. Then we have other customers that know a great deal and we love learning from them,” Trott said.

Royal Doulton Robin Hood Mug

Take one look at this 1959 mug and you’ll soon see it bears a striking resemblance to Errol Flynn, who would forever be associated with the bandit after his appearance in The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938. If someone on your list is a Royal Doulton collector, this is a must-have.


Edinburgh Crystal

Just for fun, I checked out the price of a single piece made by Waterford Crystal, perhaps the most well-known name in the fancy stemware business. The Lismore white wine glass sells for about CDN $72. That’s why this set of four, six ounce glasses from the equally well-know Edinburgh Crystal is such a fantastic deal. And yes, they make that lovely ping sound when you flick the lip.

$60 for four

Shelley Demitasse China Set

Imagine serving espresso after dinner in this charming set. Shelley china hasn’t been made since the 1960s and there’s a big following for these lovely English pieces. The 16-piece set includes cream, sugar, a coffee pot and six cups and saucers.


Rhinestone Tiara

Is there a little girl on your list with a penchant for all things princessy? You can’t go wrong with this sparkly tiara. It’s the real deal, studded with dozens of rhinestones (and not one missing). $116

Things Antiques and Gifts, 913 Corydon Ave, 284-7331

Mon. – Sat. 10 am – 4 pm