Christmas Shopping 101

I’ll admit – I am one of these annoying people that loves Christmas. I start shopping early, I put my tree up early (it went up yesterday, no joke) and I always plan a bunch of Christmas related activities.

However, what I really do not like is trying to navigate the insane crowds that seem to be appearing earlier and earlier each year. Last Sunday, more than a full month before Christmas. I decided to run out and have a look for a few things, the lines at the local Toys R Us store were about 20 people deep and there was absolutely nowhere to park at the mall. This lead me to come home in frustration and whip out my laptop.

I’ve been doing more and more shopping online in recent years, but this will probably be my heaviest year yet. With a big list and a lack of patience I find it’s the best way to get things done.

So, where do I shop? That’s the whole point of this post!

Note: This will be heavily geared toward Canadian shoppers, but Americans may find pieces of it helpful, as most sites ship to both countries.

Beyond the Rack – This is a discounted site where you can find things that have been sold off from various brands/designers. It’s a great way to get some quality stuff for a good price. The only thing about this site, and I really mean it is ORDER EARLY. Most of the time it takes about 2-3 weeks for merchandise to get from their origins to the Beyond the Rack facility and then a further week or so to get to your home address. So if you want to order from them do it NOW if you want to get it in time for Christmas.

The Children’s Place – If you have any little people on your list, the Children’s Place is a great stop. They always, I repeat ALWAYS have a sale on. And, if they don’t, Google “the Children’s Place promo code” and you’re sure to find one. Just last week I ordered about $100 dollars worth of merchandise for about $40 shipped, taxes in. Also, they ship very quickly. My shipment left Toronto on a Tuesday night and arrived at my house in Newfoundland less than 24 hours later.

Snorg Tees – Snorg specializes in funny, topical tshirts. They have a lot of product (I always find myself on the site for probably an hour, time I get through it all). They do charge for shipping but I don’t generally get charged duties on them, and the times that I have, it’s only been nominal.

Amazon – It’s cliche, but cheap prices, quick shipping and a large variety of product make this one of my favourite sites – especially if you want to order something mid-December (because you’ll still get it in time for Christmas).

Blurb – This option will take the most time, but it makes a great gift. You can download the site’s software and make yourself a book of any kind. In the last few years, whenever I’ve returned home from a road trip, I compile photos and make one of these for my travel companions. There is easier software out there, but after a small learning curb I like what you can do with Blurb. Also, the books range from about $20 and up but you can often get coupon codes for 40-50% off of your order.

Gap – As you might have noticed, I love a good sale! So the fact that every year Gap offers 40-50% off sales leading up to Christmas is great. You can get some great stuff for yourself for all those Christmas events, as well as some good presents. I’m particular fond of their athletic line. It’s durable and good quality and cheap than Lululemon.

Think Geek – Think Geek is a fabulous site filled with great, fun and nerdy goods. But I am warning you now – if you are Canadian you are going to pay duties on your order and it’s not going to be pretty.

Above all of these great options, if you live in an area that isn’t as insane as where I live, I strongly recommend that you get out an support your local business community. Even if you have to pay a little more, it’s worth it. I’ll always try and make a round or two of the downtown area before the holiday season – it’s a fun way to pass an afternoon.

I Don’t Know Who to Vote For

When it comes to the world of politics, I consider myself generally well-versed. I don’t claim to be an expert on anything, I’m not deeply involved, but I’d like to think that I can hold an intelligent conversation on the matter.

In late 2015 I am going to have to vote in not one, but two elections – one Federal (in October) and one Provincial (in November). I’ve read the news, I’ve watched the leaders debate that aired a few weeks ago, and it all leads me to the same conclusion.

I don’t know who to vote for.

I know that there’s no way I would ever, ever vote for the Conservative Party. Take away the fact that Harper has basically destroyed our access to information and has muted so many scientists/academics and I still don’t have a conservative bone in my body.

I’m fairly young, open-minded and very logical, which should align me up well with the Liberal party, but I’m not exactly buying what they’re selling either. There’s something about Trudeau that I just don’t like. I feel at times that he comes across as arrogant and well, he did sign into effect Bill C-51 along WITH the Conservatives (more about that here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-terrorism_Act,_2015 ).

That leaves me with the NDP Party. Their leader seems full of promises that are just waiting to be broken. He’s promising things left, right and centre. Things anyone either bit knowledgable in the way of politics knows that would either A. Never happen or B. Sink the economy.

When I’m looking for someone to guide the country I’m looking for someone who cares about human rights, the environment and small business. These are things I haven’t really found from any leader yet.

I realize I am only one person, but the more I discuss voting with my friends the more I realize many of us are the same, we really don’t know what to be doing.

When push comes to shove, I will probably vote Liberal, but it won’t be a confident vote, that’s for certain.

Oh, Canada

As today is the 148th birthday of Canada (I know this offhand as its my mother’s age plus 100 years, sorry to out your nearly-age, mudder).  In honour of this occasion, I thought I’d take a few minutes to reflect on why I am indeed a proud Canadian.

1. I love the fact that you can walk down the street of nearly any major Canadian city and see people that look so very different yet are all very Canadian.  You cannot make the assumption that just because someone is not Caucasian that they are not Canadian.  We literally come from every size, coluor, walk of life, etc and that is definitely something to proud of.

2, I also love the pride you see on Canada Day when you see new citizens being sworn in.  They are so, so happy to call themselves Canadian and if they feel that warm and fuzzy, why can’t I?

3. The Motto of the United States is “In God We Trust” the Motto of Canada is “From Sea to Sea.” I think that says a lot about us as a people.

4. I enjoy that we don’t go to war with other countries – we peace keep and support, but never initiate.

5. For the most part, we are mostly a very liberal population.  Our gay rights are the most liberal of all the Americas and we passed the bill for legalization of gay marriage without much fanfare.  Unlike some other countries we can think of…

6. The right to freely choose our leaders, no matter how crappy they are. This is a right I think we often take for granted as we don’t realize how many people out there still cannot do this.

7. We are unashamed to be who we are.  Canada is the brunt of many an international joke, but say what you want – we take everything in stride.

8. We unabashedly love our hockey.  If you do the adjusted math, more of the population watches the Stanley Cup finals than those who watch the Super Bowl in the United States.  The annual World Junior Championships are a Christmas tradition in many households and I don’t know anyone who cannot name at least all the Canadian hockey teams.

9. Safety. Today I spent the day outside – walking with friends, visiting, eating in restaurants and watching fireworks and never once did I feel scared or threatened in any way, shape form. My only ‘fear’ was that I was to get bitten to death by mosquitos while I was watching the fireplace.

10.  Green space, fresh air, mountains, valleys, oceans, lakes and ponds.  Nature is abundant and mostly well protected in this vast land.

In short, we are a huge county with a relatively small population who are fiercely proud of where we are from.  I shall personally celebrated today by wearing red and indulging in a few Canadian made beers. Cheers to another good 148 years.