For five and a half months each year, I don't buy myself anything.
This is so I don't use up all of the good gift ideas. Here are some
examples of why that is a good policy. It would be a shame to deprive
my wife of the chance to give great gifts.
1986: Cedar Strip Canoe
This was the first time we could afford to give a sizable gift. I'm
still not sure where she scraped up the money. Anybody who has had
the chance to spend some time on the still lakes of northern Ontario
has got to be a fan of a cedar strip canoe.
This is an excellent example of the craft and one that gets purchase
offers most years. It's been down a few rivers, across a number of
lakes, and been a giant hat portaging in Algonquin Park. Its best
use was taking my daughters 'fishing'. They both had fishing rods,
but the day was really about being in the quiet and having a lunch
on the water. We'd paddle up a river so the scenary was always
changing, tell some stories and nibble away at whatever snacks found
their way into the backpack. What more could you ask of life?
1996: Stunt Kayak
This gift almost didn't happen. The day before I was supposed to get it,
the dealer was touching something up, per the manufacturer's instructions,
and melted a large hole into it. This error became a free trip for two
to the sportsman show - conveniently starting the next day and a promise
to let us have the boat we liked best from the manufacturer. The result
is the one pictured above.
At the time, it was billed as a rodeo kayak and was the shortest
ever made. The kayak is specifically designed to go in any direction
on a whim, and as such is inherently unstable. There is no lazing about
floating down stream in this. It is an active boat meant for moving water.
It is a great little kayak and came with three days paddling in spring
run off on the Madawaska River. While this is the most adventurous
time to be in white water, the tradeoff is that the water isn't much
above freezing. Paddling in 4C water is barely tolerable and taking
a swim is extremely unpleasant. That's all just motivation to watch
the water flow and not the big rocks so you stay upright.
1999: PRS Archtop
These guitars weren't made for very long, but they are incredible
instruments. They are kind of a hybrid between an old school jazz
guitar and a violin. The top and back are carved inside and out.
The workmanship is impeccable.
Maybe they just came out at the wrong time, but I'm glad I have one
and plan to keep it. It serves very well playing jazz or classical
This came with a trip far enough south to give the trike a good workout.
Myrtle Beach happened to be the first place that was warm enough so we
set up there for a week. This trike is incredible fun. It feels
super-fast, though part of that is due to being so close to the ground.
There is no denying how responsive a vehicle it is. You can turn on
a dime. And you can stop on the spot - with those big discs and the
balance of 3 wheels, grabbing the brake is like throwing out an anchor.
And through it all the trike tracks straight. Greenspeed did an excellent
job of the balance on this thing.
Bonus that you can fold it up so it doesn't take up too much space
in your car. Double bonus that it is bright yellow.
2010: 9 Amps in One
I've had a Mesa Boogie Mark III since the late 80s and it has always
had a good enough sound that I never felt the need for another amp.
The only downside the Mark III ever had was that you had to keep a
cheat sheet of the right settings to get a particular sound. Without
a cheat sheet, the interaction of the controls is too complex to give
yourself a fair chance of getting the sound you want at any particular
The Mark V gave you separate controls for each of 3 channels, which
lets you have 3 presets to switch through. I thought this would be
very convenient, but not enough so that I was going to buy one. I was;
however, willing to kill some time in my favourite music store seeing
if any of the other manufacturers had caught up to Mesa Boogie for the
sound I like. I decided they were still my favourite and left. A few
months later the bubinga encased Mark V pictured above landed in my
Sweetness in a box. Each of the 3 channels has 3 flavours of
amplification built in and each of them gives a very satisfying sound.
The range is enormous. The two amps were meant to live in different
places, but they look too good together in the music room to separate.
2011: Custom Taylor
This guitar is the result of giving my friend Brent no constraints
in a guitar builder's wood shop. He put together specifications for
twenty guitars and this number one of the bunch took no prisoners.
Great wood selection and excellent workmanship make it beautiful to
look at and exceptional to listen to. All of the best acoustic woods
are there: rosewood back and sides, spruce top, mahogany neck, ebony
fingerboard and koa highlights - including on the Laskin arm rest.
I had a chance to play a few of the twenty. I'm sure Brent would have
let me try them all, but I didn't want to overstay my welcome. Every
one of the bunch is an excellent guitar, but number one is a real