Tag Archives: health

James in his Jeep Getting Java — and Grinfinn the Pekingese!

For those of you who follow my blog, you may recall that last Christmas I had to say farewell to my 17-year-old shih tzu, Conan. I adopted him when I was 28 and he was with me for what had seemed my entire life. It was not an easy adjustment.

At first I thought saying goodbye to a beloved pet was something I could never do again, and then I thought I’d wait a year to spend some time on my own, and then I realized that for the first time in my adult life I was actually lonely. I’ve spent most of my adult life alone, but I had never before experienced loneliness.

I took to Petfinder.com and started looking at dogs. The first one I applied for I never heard back from the agency, and then a couple weeks later the dog was adopted. My assumption is that the foster family chose to keep the dog, as that particular agency had a “foster to adopt” program.

The second dog was named “Grinfinn,” and later on I would learn that it was just a misspelling of the name “Griffin.” He was a six-year-old Pekingese (possibly crossed with a Japanese Chin) and had come here from Taiwan. The write up claimed he was relaxed, good with people and pets, and house trained. So I applied.

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After the initial application, there was a phone interview. After the interview, there was a home inspection where I got to meet Grinfinn (yes, I kept the misspelled name). He seemed like the perfect match, so I told them I wanted him. And they wanted me to have him. Most importantly, it really seemed like Grinfinn wanted to have me. It was ideal.

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It would be easy to make the claim that Grinfinn came into my home and all was bliss. But just in case you ever consider getting a shelter dog, I feel it’s important that you know bliss comes with patience and hard work.

1. Stress On the Dog

The first night Grinfinn was stressed. He made loud grunting noises, and he would sit near me but not with me. He was still excited about walks, but he really wasn’t sure what to make of all that was happening. I think in his mind he wondered when he was going home.

I slept on the couch because Grinfinn wanted to wander the apartment all night. He finally fell asleep around 3 or 4 am, and he snored LOUDLY. He sounded like a 500 lbs human snoring. This was less the second night, and by the third night he was sleeping in a bed of his own beside mine. (His legs are so short I’m worried about having him on my bed just yet in case he jumps off.)

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2. Eating.

He didn’t eat the first day. He was energetic and seemed to be adjusting, but he turned up his nose to his dinner and to treats. I had some of his old food that he was familiar with, but he was just not interested. The second day I made him an egg, and he ate it. The third day I made another egg and mixed it with his food. He ate all of it. Today, I mixed a little bit of egg with his food and he ate all his food with no fuss. Eventually, he’ll just eat his own food–or maybe it’ll be a bit of egg all the time. We’ll see.

3. Playfulness.

I bought him a toy that he had no interest in. I kept it on the floor, and figured when he was ready he’d let me know. Today, he took the toy in his mouth and brought it to me. He was ready!

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He and I are adjusting well, and Grinfinn is starting to show signs of really taking to his new environment. I’m on holidays, so all my time so far has been hanging out with him at home and taking him on walks. He even has his own Instagram where you can see his adventures!

It is all bliss having Grinfinn as my companion in the sense that we love going for walks together. People love meeting him, and he’s making a lot of new friends.

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We have a whole lifetime together to adjust to the rest of it, and as I wrote earlier we will — with patience. For now, I’ll leave you with a couple more photos. And a theme song.

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James in his Jeep Getting Java-SureFyre Farms

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As a writer I like to have as many unique experiences as I can so that when I’m working on a project, I can draw from a vast pool of ideas. A new member to my Dungeons and Dragons group mentioned that she lives on a farm, SureFyre Farms, and teaches equestrian horse riding, and so I thought it would be fun to take a lesson.

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The road from Vancouver to Squamish is a beautiful one, and SureFyre Farms is actually just past Squamish. While the drive took some time to get there, the day was mostly sunny and quite warm.

I took my time getting there and just enjoyed the scenery. In fact, I made mental note of several places that I’ll return to this summer to spend a day. That area of BC is ripe with gorgeous landscapes, mountain views, and wildlife galore.

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When I arrived at the farm, I was greeted by Gabrielle who was my instructor for the day. (And, just in case you wonder how I did, I was told that when I get it right I do so 100%–but when I get it wrong, I get it wrong 100%, too. Funny enough, that’s what my tae kwon do instructor also used to tell me!)

The farm is a picturesque landscape of ten acres and bustling with activity. They have borders who are there riding and caring for their horses, and everyone was friendly and cheerful.

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Garbriel introduced me to Ghost, a very calm horse that she broke herself. She is a very knowledgeable and patient instructor and, considering this was my first time riding in probably seven years, Gabriel made me feel at ease.

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The day was fun and the hour lesson went by fast. If you’re ever looking for a place to learn equestrian horse riding I recommend SureFyre Farms as a place to check out.

Be careful on your way out, however, as you may (as I did) see moose crossing the road.

James in his Jeep Getting Java-Birch Bay Edition

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Some time ago, I’d taken a road trip to Lynden Washington when I decided to travel the other direction down the Birch Bay/Lynden road. I’d found a little cottage town that I fell in love with, but had only had a short time to explore. That day I had vowed to return so that I could better check out the area. At the time, it seemed as though I had stepped through a time portal to the 50s and so I wondered if I’d ever find it again.

Today I decided to return to Birch Bay and see more of the little cottage town–as well, I’d discovered that a cousin of mine (who also, it turned out, loved visiting Lynden,) visited Birch Bay often. It’s a short drive over the Canada/US border to Birch Bay–known by me mostly for the little shopping centre by the highway with the Woods Coffee that I always visit. (Yet didn’t this time.) Birch Bay has a population of just under 8,500 people.

I was pretty confident that I knew the area well enough not to need my GPS. After all, I’d been there once before and had found it completely by accident after taking a wrong turn. Surely that meant I’d have no trouble finding it a second time. (That should be read with the utmost of sarcasm plus the sound of one smacking himself in the forehead.)

I drove around for probably 45 minutes and wound up in six dead end streets. I finally had to give up and pull out my GPS, only recalling that the name of the place I wanted started with a C. Or a G. Or maybe it rhymed with C or G. I didn’t want to use my cell phone and pay for US data roaming, so once again I gave up on the GPS and just guessed which street might be the right one. I also guessed on the name of the place; more on that later.

I wound up along a strip of road that I didn’t recognize, and so I stopped to check things out and maybe get some lunch. The cafe below looked interesting, but was closed today until noon which was still an hour and a bit away.

What I noticed mostly as I walked along the road beside the beach, was how low the tide was. There were boats marooned in the sand and rocks with no water for a good mile. I attempted to get a photo, but I’d forgotten my proper camera and while the cell phone has great MPs, it cannot do zoomed in shots at all without pixelating the image. The one below isn’t terrible, but there were sections of the beach covered in boats.

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The Beach at Birch Bay is a place I’ll try next time, but today there wasn’t anyone in it and I’m always leery of places without customers. I will note that on my way back to my car, it was full.

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So,  I went to the place below. CJ’s Beach House had a reasonably full patio, so I figured if the locals liked it I would as well. I had a coffee and crab cakes, since it was still an hour and a bit before noon. The service was very good and the food was enjoyable.

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At this point I knew I was never going to find the place I was originally looking for, but at least I was fed. I figured it wouldn’t take too long to Google the address of the place I was looking for, and then I could plug that into my GPS and find it. So I did. It was called the “C Shop.” (Whatever you do, do NOT accidentally Google “the c spot” which was what I thought it might be called.)

Also, it was just another three blocks down the road that I was on, which meant I was headed in the right direction all along.

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Today’s coffee shop was the Bay Cafe, kitty corner to the C Shop. Walking inside feels like stepping back through time–thus the theme song for this post. (Which you’ll find at the bottom of the post. In fact, go there now, play it, then continue reading from here.)

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I had a latte and one of the cookies below. Both were delicious! The Bay Cafe was once a root beer stand from 1930-1950, and much of the feel of the place has remained the same.

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I spent the next couple hours at a table on this gravel patio enjoying the day and listening to locals.This place was just what I needed to de-stress and refocus my energy.

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By mid-afternoon, I was ready to stretch my legs and see what else was here. Across the street there were tables with local artisans selling their wares. I was drawn to a large sign that read, “BOOKS!” so I wandered down the road towards it. It was basically a self-serve used bookstore! And just in case you think my theory that I’d stepped back in time is ridiculous–there were no DVDs here. Just VHS!

And of course there were plenty of big homes, private beaches, and places I wasn’t supposed to enter. >whistles innocently< There were also waterslides, but since I can’t swim and I’m afraid of heights water parks don’t really interest me.

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On my way back, I stopped in at Blaine to see if the Caboose was open. I’d been spying it for years, but have never once been in town when it wasn’t closed. And in case you were wondering, I didn’t use my GPS to find my way back to Blaine (I figured how hard could it be? It looked like this one road lead straight there.)

Thankfully, most of the road I took was gorgeous and the day was hot. My temp gauge in the Jeep said 26C (78.8F) and the sun was blaring. I had my windows out and the sunrider roof open, with my hat and sunscreen to protect me. In retrospect, I should have had water with me.

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I wasn’t lost for long, although at one point I nearly wound up back in Canada and wasn’t sure how to U-turn or where.

Anyway … Blaine is a cute little border town of approximately 5,000 people. I especially like all the murals on their buildings. Plus, if you have to use the public toilets, they are clean and not scary.

Today, finally, persistence paid off. The Little Red Caboose Cafe was open! And it was worth being so persistent over. As cafes go, this one was terrific. They do serve food, but I was in the mood for something cold to drink and not a meal. I had a mocha frap, and sat for a spell on their patio. When I mentioned to the barista that I was surprised they were open, she said they were bought by a new owner and that’s why they weren’t closed.

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And that was my trip to the Birch Bay/Blaine area. Considering how close I am to it every time I venture south, I’m surprised I’ve never checked it out before. I will certainly be checking it out again–many times. In fact, August 13 and 14 is their Birch Bay Rollback Weekend with the promise of returning to the 50s and 60s. See? They do time travel there!

James in His Jeep Getting Java–The Squamish Edition

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Last weekend I took a road trip to Shannon Falls near Squamish, BC. This time, pal Marcie asked to come along and I welcomed the company. Of course, as I’ve blogged about before, there is a risk when travelling with someone as opposed to going solo. Solo, I stop where I want, leave when I want, and do whatever I want. In a nutshell, I get to be selfish–and in order to recharge sometimes people need to be selfish. But when you’re travelling with someone, you have to be considerate of the fact that they may not want to see the same sights, or stay as long, or they may get upset with you when, for the millionth time, you’re lost.

Marcie was a terrific travelling companion and I put her to the test. Driving out of Vancouver I got turned around and couldn’t find the road that lead to the highway–she laughed and directed me so we wouldn’t spend the day circling one-way streets. Once on our way, we headed to Shannon Falls!

Just before Shannon Falls, there’s overflow parking to the left. I highly recommend using the overflow, especially if you visit on a busy long weekend like we did. Or, you could do what I did and make another wrong turn while attempting to find the overflow and wind up in the campground next door to it–which was where we took the photo of me beside the jalopy below.

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Across the highway (there’s a pedestrian crossing with lights from the overflow to Shannon Falls) we found a walkway that lead to the falls. While the park was beautiful and the falls were incredible, there really wasn’t much to do and after twenty minutes we were looking for more trails.

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We found two paths–one that sloped down, possibly to a river, and one that lead up (and up and up and up) to the Chief, which is not a hike for beginners or for those with the wrong shoes–such as my Blundstones. At first Marcie thought it might not be so bad, but after a short climb we both agreed that we should see where the other path leads.

We expected to find a river, as that was where it seemed to head. However, it came out of the forest where the new Sea to Sky Gondola was situated. It was still early in the day, and Marcie said she was up for it if I was–so we went inside to see about getting tickets. What we discovered, is that there are two places to buy tickets. Inside where we went, at the info desk, there was no line up. Then, when we went outside to the cable car area, we found another ticket booth and a long line-up of people. (>insert evil chortle<)

There were two types of cable cars, and we took the one on the left (we assumed the one of the right was for supplies).

The view is amazing, and for those who may be scared of heights (like I am) this cable car felt very secure. It was an extremely windy day, but the cable car stayed pretty still.

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Photo credit Marcie Nestman.

 

When we got to the top, we discovered that there was a wedding going on. So I took photos, because that’s what one does when one sees a wedding in a public place. In case you want to book your wedding there, here’s the link.

At the top there’s a restaurant, gift shop, snack bar, and two smaller food kiosks. There are plenty of picnic tables if you bring your own food (such as what we did), and the walks around the summit are easy and short with amazing views. The suspension bridge was fun to cross.

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Photo credit Marcie Nestman.
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Photo credit Marcie Nestman.

When we decided it was time to leave, the line up for the cable car was very, very long. It does move very, very fast though–so no need for stress. We lucked out when an attendant asked if we liked dogs, as there was one in a cable car and no one wanted to ride with him. We said yes, and thus I made a new friend below. (I don’t recall his name, but in my defence he probably doesn’t remember mine either.)

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Normally, I end the post with a theme song, but today, since Marcie is an accomplished actress, I’m ending with her latest commercial.

James in his Jeep Getting Java–Cottage Town

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A friend commented that this pic looks like a Mad Max Road Warrior photo.

 

 

 

A couple weekends ago I took a road trip to Lynden, Washington, a town I visit quite regularly. I follow the Lynden Dutch Bakery on Instagram, and they’d posted a pic of all the fresh raspberries they’d acquired and so I knew a trek was in order.

While Lynden was my destination, I’ve always said that a good road trip isn’t where you point your Jeep but where you ultimately wind up. This day was warm and sunny, hitting a nice 25C by noon. From the Canada/States border, the road to Lynden is called the Lynden/Birch Bay road. Turn left to Lynden, turn right to Birch Bay. (The latter is where I always stop for my coffee at the Woods Coffee.)

In Lynden, a town of just under thirteen thousand, I got my Raspberry Delight as pictured below) and attempted to get a selfie of me and it. A woman was sitting at the table beside me with her newborn, and offered to take my photo for me. We wound up chatting as she and her husband had just been to Vancouver for the first time, and we compared stories of what it’s like to live where we do. She and her husband had moved there from Texas, and they were finding it difficult to meet new people.

Below are photos of my walk through the historic part of Lynden, and they can be compared to my earlier journey there from January. I did stop at a new place for lunch, and while I enjoyed the meal I had a rude comment from the manager that I had intended to blog about. But, to be honest, sometimes the best way to let people know about a bad experience is to just not give that place any advertising. Next time I’m in Lynden, I’ll stick to the Lynden Dutch Bakery since they are always friendly and the food is always amazing.

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20160702_120141After I had my lunch, it was still early in the day so I decided to drive down to Fairhaven and just enjoy the rest of the sunny day. I often go to Avenue Bread for their iced coffee and some sort of pastry.

As I walked through the town, I kept thinking about that Lynden/Birch Bay road and how I’ve only ever driven the Lynden route and never all the way to the end of the Birch Bay area. I was curious what was there, and while I could Google it nothing beats actually venturing it yourself.

The photos below are a collection of Fairhaven from that trip and a previous trip in May. The red bus is Fairhaven Fish and Chips which makes a great, greasy fish and chips meal.

I also recommend taking a stroll through Fairhaven Park.

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When it was nearing time to head home, I still had a couple hours of free time. As I neared the Lynden/Birch Bay road, I decided to turn left down towards Birch Bay and see what was there. At first it was a typical country road, but then I came across Birch Bay State Park and had to stop to purchase a pass.

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After getting my pass, I drove towards the camp grounds and found a road that wound along the bay. There were dozens of families enjoying the water, and I stopped at a picnic table by the water to finish my iced coffee that was leftover from Avenue Bread. It was a beautiful day.

 

Below, you’ll find photos of the campsite area and the road along the water. When I left, my GPS took me on a different route home than where I had begun. And that’s when I found the most amazing of places.

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I saw the bright yellow from down the road and instantly had to find a place to stop. It felt as though I had stepped through a time portal and had wound up in the 70s where simple cottage life still existed. The C Shop was a cute little place that served ice cream and fudge. Birch Bay Village has a population of just under 8,500 people.

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Families had gathered, and across the street were tables where people were selling their arts and crafts. Kitty corner to that was a yarn shop. As I watched the world happen (while eating my ice cream), a group of kids all rode by on their bikes and stopped for ice cream.

All of this got me thinking about a novel I have finished but have just not been happy with. There was something missing–something about where the kids live, why they have their conflict, and the reasons why they’ll never see each other after that last summer together. That story returned to me as I watched the lives unfold at Birch Bay, and many of the pieces I couldn’t figure out suddenly made sense.

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I didn’t have nearly enough time to fully experience Birch Bay, so this will be a spot that I return to again when the sun is out and warm. I’ll sit in the cafe, enjoy a coffee, and be inspired by a slow way of life that sometimes feels completely lost.

And yes, as you can see below, I’ll also stop in at the Woods Cafe at Birch Bay Square to fill up my bottles of cold brew coffee.

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And what song went through my head when I saw the old C Shop and that cute cottage town?