Friday, January 28, 2022

How to bring an entire village to a standstill.


This is the two-lane road in Mousehole
“Lady! Move the car!” A ginger-haired, spittle-spraying, police officer bellowed at me through the passenger’s window. He’d assumed that I was the driver, being as we were in the British Isles and person on the righthand side of the car should have been the driver. 

However, we were driving an Aston Martin, built in Britain for the North American market which meant the steering wheel was on the lefthand side of the car.

Ha! I fooled him. But I prudently didn’t mention that to the irate man.

I wasn’t oblivious to the problem building up around our car on Wharf Street, in the hamlet of Mousehole. The traffic had been creeping past by alternating one way then the other accompanied by filthy looks from frustrated drivers, but finally a delivery van firmly shoved a cork in the bottleneck. It was unable to pass between our car and the ancient stone wall of the hotel and the entire seaside village came to a standstill.

Mousehole is a tiny gem on the edge of the English Channel, in Cornwall England. In 1991, on an extended road trip through Europe, we had wandered our way southish from Northern Ireland, through the Welsh communities of, Swansea, Cardiff, and on to Bristol England, regrettably bypassing Bath. We continued on to Exeter then Plymouth, until we were on narrow country lanes that were hemmed in by stone walls and overhanging vegetation and littered with sheep traveling to and from their home pastures. As with every discovery on this journey, we had no set plan or route to follow, and were content to go where the road looked interesting.

The harbour in Mousehole
And Mousehole definitely looked interesting.

The miniscule harbour was sealed off in the stormy winter months, with at that time, massive timbers that were lowered into metal brackets. We were there in August, of 1991, at what should have been the height of tourist season but because of the recent Gulf War, very few tourists and virtually no Americans were traveling. 

In Mousehole, pronounced by locals as Muzzle, or as it sounded to me Mowzel, the roads predate horse and carriage days, barely one vehicle wide and not designed for modern day transportation. Lawrie parked the Aston Martin near The Ship Inn, with two wheels close to the hotel wall and her wide butt hanging into traffic. Ignoring my protests, he hopped out of the car and headed into the hotel. The Ship Inn would normally have had a two-year waiting list for summer visitors. A few minutes later I glimpsed Lawrie and the manager traipsing through the hotel viewing the available rooms. 

The Aston Martin (green) on a typical road
Just as the British bobby was spraying me with spittle and anger, Lawrie and the hotel manager crossed through the traffic to the annex on the other side of the road. The copper lost his cool, screaming at the hotel manager, who gaily waved and continued on his way. He was more concerned with snagging the seemingly rich guests for a few nights’ accommodation, than he was with the tangled mess of local traffic.

Frustrated, the police officer turned his blue-eyed glare back on me, “I said, move this car lady." His expression said quite clearly that he would like to bash the shit out of the expansive hood of the car with his wide hand. The tiny alcove that the car occupied was the only place that vehicles could squeeze past each other.

Sheepishly, I squashed my holiday-sized body out of the passenger’s door, rounded to the driver’s side and contorted my way back into the car. Climbing across the front seats wasn’t an option with gearshift and handbrake creating poking hazards for my nether regions. I started the Aston and waited for the copper to clear a pathway. Stomping backwards past several cars he angrily indicated they should reverse, then it was my turn to inch back a few feet allowing the delivery van to make a left turn onto a side-street. Another policeman did the same for the vehicles facing me, making everyone move back two car lengths to allow the stupid tourist to get the hell out of the way.

Everyone quietly fumed in their cars. No horn honking. No road rage. Just quiet, seething anger aimed at the idiots with the British Columbia license plate proudly displaying a Canadian flag.

Lawrie writing post cards to family
I squeezed the Aston Martin into a spot on the wharf, in an area reserved for the hotel guests. By the time the traffic was inching forward to their original destinations, Lawrie had registered us for a two-night stay. Smiling happily at his choice of a lovely seaside room, he joined me on the wharf, “everything okay, then?”

Seeing my exasperated expression, he started to laugh, “I knew you would handle it.”

“Thanks, so very much,” I retorted, “you are buying me a nice dinner this evening.”

We spent two memorable days exploring the lovely side streets, cafés, and interesting boutique stores occupying the original cottages that had belonged to the fishermen and their families. At one store we came across a sweet little children’s book, by Antonia Barber, The Mousehole Cat. The cat, Mouser, is credited with saving the villagers one stormy winter’s night. The villagers were starving because they couldn’t get their fishing boats out through the narrow opening in the harbour, the seas were too rough and the wind ferocious. The old cat and her elderly owner, Tom Bawcock, set off in their tiny fishing boat to find fish for the residents knowing them might never return.

The fishing adventure ends with great success and everyone in the village, including an assortment of cats, enjoys a hearty meal of Mouser’s favourite meal, Stargazy Pie. This pie is traditionally made with a combination of seven types of fish including mackerel, ling cod, herring, and whole pilchards (sardines) and topped with a pasty crust. The pilchards are baked whole with heads poking through the pastry top, appearing to gaze at the stars. There are many variations of the original recipe, which include hard-boiled eggs, bacon, onion, mustard, or white wine. In late December on Tom Bawcock's Eve, Stargazy Pie is served at The Ship Inn, in Mousehole, sometimes accompanied by a re-enactment of the legend.

Before we left Mousehole, I purchased a copy of The Mousehole Cat. The book traveled from Cornwall England through fifteen countries, before returning to Canada with us later in 1991.

Somewhere in the sorting and packing preparations to move to Isla Mujeres Mexico in 2008, I gave the book to a good friend as a keepsake. Then recently I discovered I could order another copy from Amazon! It arrived today. 

Tonight, I poured a glass of wine to enjoy while I re-read the The Mousehole Cat, and reminisce about an entertaining experience thirty years ago with my adventure partner, Lawrie.

For the full story watch this little video on YouTube: Mousehole Cat

Link to The Ship Inn:


Lynda and my new adventure pal, Sparky the Mexican pooch who adopted us in 2013.


Something for everyone! 

Bilingual books for children 

or entertaining murder mysteries for the grownups.

Murder and mayhem, revenge and romance! 

Grab your copy on Amazon! Paperback and e-books. 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Goats on the roof!

Goats on Roof - posing for photos. 
"What if we put goats on the roof?" 

It's a simple question that created a hugely popular tourist destination located in the community of Coombs, on Vancouver Island. 

The original Old Country Market was created in the early 1970's by Kristian Graaten and his wife, Solveig, who had emigrated with their children to Vancouver Island from Norway in the 1950s. 

The Old Country Market

The sod roof was inspired by their Norwegian homeland where farm structures are frequently built directly into the hillside with the roof becoming an extension of the land. 

The complex is an eclectic mixture of shops and eateries including the original fruit stand, a diverse market, a yummy donut shop, a coffee house, La Taqueria Mexican cantina, the Cuckoo Trattoria Italian restaurant, and an amazing selection of huge garden pots. 

Okanagan fresh fruit
We arrived late on a Thursday afternoon, but couldn't find a parking space within three blocks so decided to return the next morning at opening time.

On Friday morning my friends and I freely roamed the original marketplace purchasing olives, artisan cheese, gourmet crackers, their own brand of olive oil, and beautiful Mexican glass tumblers. 

Then we moved on to the fresh produce in the next building and stocked up on Okanagan fruit and local vegetables.

Ninety minutes later as we were leaving the complex was rapidly filling up with locals and tourists coming to experience this unique combination of fun and function.

Mexican glass tumblers
As for the question, “What if we put goats on the roof?” 

According to the company's webpage it was the weekend of the Coombs Fall Fair and the grass was getting rather long. Legend has it that, after a few glasses of wine, Larry suggested that they ‘borrow’ some goats to ‘mow’ the grass and perhaps provide some entertainment for passing cars. 

The goats hang out here when not on roof duty
The goats became permanent tenants of the Coombs market that weekend and have been there for more than thirty years. Each spring, a trip of goats makes their home on the roof, entertaining both locals and visitors from all over the world. The goats take turns on the rooftop, posing for tourists while other members of the tribe relax in the shady field below the complex. 

Italian restaurant and produce market
The Old Country Market is now owned and operated by Larry and Lene Geekie and their family. ‘Goats On Roof’ has become one of the top tourist destinations in British Columbia. 

If you are on Vancouver Island, it is worth the time to stop and experience Goats on Roof.

Lynda & my travel buddy Sparky

Love, lust, and loot!

Click below to grab your copy!

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Driving into the past

Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny and I was restless. I just had to get out of the condo and do something! Anything. It was a perfect day for a road-trip, a contact-free road-trip staying within my approved region in keeping with the British Columbia COVID restrictions. (Sigh!)

I quickly assembled a few necessities; camera, credit card for gas, water and snacks for both Sparky and me, his water bowl and leash, my sunglasses and off we go. We headed north to Summerland, stopping at one of our favourite places to allow him a last chance to pee before we hit the mountainous, four-lane Coquihalla Highway with its limited places to stop for a puppy-dog pee break. 

Tim McGraw

We arrived in my old home town, Merritt, population 7000, around ten in the morning. I did a quick tour driving past our house on Merritt Avenue, the claybanks swimming hole, and the compact downtown area. I spent my teenage years in this town and for me it was a great place to grow up. I walked everywhere with my large white mutt, never worrying about my safety and always able to find a friend or two to hang out with.

Martina, Reba, Carrie
Merritt has been host to a number of high-profile country music stars over the years. Big names that anyone would recognize, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw to name a few. Wikipedia has a more complete list of the stars who performed in Merritt. Many have been honored with large murals covering downtown buildings, or on the Walk of the Stars. The Merritt Mountain Music Festival at its peak attracted 148,000 to the six-day event, but the accommodations were RV's and motorhomes when the small city was inundated with people.

That event petered out in 2012 and was replaced with the Rockin' River Music Festival attracting stars like Keith Urban, Jon Pardi, and Travis Tritt. Unfortunately, due to the COVID pandemic, everything is on hold for the time being. 

Nicola Stock Farm 

From Merritt, I headed north towards the well-preserved remains of the Nicola Stock Farm that was started in 1919. A stately manor, the courthouse, and a few other smaller buildings still remain. When I was a teenager the ranch manager and family lived on site, but now it is part of the massive Douglas Lake Ranch encompassing about 271,000 acres of land. The remaining buildings are a tourist attraction that can be viewed from the outside.

Our next brief stop was at the Quilchena Hotel, just a little further up the road. Again this was once an independent and well-known ranching family's property which has been folded into the Douglas Lake Ranch. The hotel, restaurant, and golf course have recently closed due to a lack of business caused by travel restrictions and a drop in tourism. It's a lovely old place that as a kid fascinated me. 

Quilchena Hotel
Lawrie and I once stayed at the Quilchena Hotel for a weekend in the early 1980's. I still remember when the young woman checked us in she said, "every room comes with a horse." We burst out laughing at the thought of a large horse climbing the grand staircase to our room, and settling into our double bed. We were so amused that we did take her up on the offer, and went horseback riding the next morning. Neither of us could be considered riders and I am certain the horses were relieved when we told our guide to take us back earlier than planned. A nice cold drink in the original bar was far more our style.

Nicola Lake

From Quilchena, I drove along the shores of the Nicola Lake towards Kamloops. At the entrance to Kamloops, I turned south along the other arm of the Coquihalla Highway and headed back to Merritt. When I'm on a roadtrip I like to stop frequently and explore, or take photos and by the time we turned south we had been travelling for five hours. My little buddy was tired of being in the car. His tummy was upset and he just wanted to go home. 

I hardly stopped at all on the return trip, but even so, we were eight hours on the road by the time we got back. And we didn't have contact with anyone except the drive-through person who handed me a cup of coffee in Merritt. 

I loved the drive, but I miss the human contact. I can't wait until these restrictions end.


Lynda and The Sparkinator

   Love, lust, and loot in the affluent world of wine and wineries. 

Corked, is the newest murder mystery from the author of the exciting Isla Mujeres Mysteries. Murder follows Jessica Sanderson and her detective dog Sparky as they relocate from their Caribbean paradise in Mexico to the Okanagan wine country in Canada. On Isla Mujeres, big changes are coming for Jessica’s friends as the COVID19 virus gains momentum. Leaving her beloved island Jessica follows her new love interest, Mike Lyons, into a new adventure.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The chore that I hate the most!

Cleaning the inside of my car is not my favourite chore, okay it's my least favourite chore. I would rather do anything else than clean the inside of my car.

Today I spent a frustrating hour contorting my body to scour out some of Sparky’s accumulated dog hair from under the dash, on the floor mats, and under or between the seats. I scrubbed at pawprints, and vacuumed up some of the sand and gravel that he tracked inside my pretty blue Mazda 3. 

And that got me to thinking about the cars of my childhood. When I was a little kid, Dad owned a 1950 beige serviceable Ford, it might have been a Customline Ford. It was a functional vehicle barely big enough for two adults, four growing daughters and the family dog. 

We as kids were frequently assigned the job of washing the car and cleaning the windows inside and out. I don't remember my mother owning a vacuum until the mid to late fifties. Yes, the car was Dad’s and the vacuum was Mom’s. It was the 1950’s. 

So, how did we clean the inside of the car? Think about it. Two adults who smoked in the vehicle with the windows rolled up. Four messy noisy kids. And a farty Cocker Spaniel who shed, a lot. 
Somewhere in the late 1950’s Mom eventually got a big awkward Hoover Constellation vacuum, but the back alley where we cleaned the family automobile didn’t have electricity so vacuuming the inside would have been impossible. In 1955 Dad was able to upgrade to a maroon-coloured two-door 1955 Oldsmobile Super-88. He was pretty darn proud of that car. 

I remember one Saturday morning when dad told us to wash and wax The Oldsmobile. We very industriously applied wax to the entire vehicle, only to discover that was the worst possible scenario. The particular type of wax that we were given was to be applied in small areas, and then buffed off as soon as the surface clouded. We scrubbed furiously at the hard wax in hopes of removing it before Dad discovered our mistake. 

Yeah, no such luck. He was less than impressed when he had to apply his muscles to remove the mess. 

Our next family automobile was a smaller sportier one, a Mercury Meteor. There were only two of the four daughters at home by that time, plus another family dog who also shed, a lot more than the Cocker Spaniel. The Mercury Meteor didn’t last long because dad was long-legged and the car was too small. 

The final family car was a big, long, boat of a thing, a copper-coloured 1967 Dodge Monaco. And we still had the big white dog who shed an amazing about of fur, and who went with us whenever possible. 
Our driveway didn’t have an electrical outlet and I am pretty sure Dad wouldn’t have spent money on someone else cleaning his car, when he had two healthy, strong teenage daughters living at home. 

I’ve driven and owned a wild assortment of vehicles since I became a licenced driver those many, many years ago; everything from two-hundred-dollar junker, to this 1915 Overland delivery truck, to an expensive Aston Martin. 

I love the freedom of owning a car. 

I just hate to clean the inside.

Cheers, Lynda and The Mucky Sparkinator

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Widowhood 101 - dealing with Amazon


Lawrie and I

It's been two years, six months and fifteen days since Lawrie passed away, and I honestly thought I had come to the end of the stressful paperwork associated with losing my partner, my best friend. 

But no, it continues.

Today's frustration isn't one of the difficult things like seeing 'cancelled' stamped across the face of his new passport, or straightening out our joint bank accounts, or advising the government that he won't be filing income tax, ever again, it's about access to over 4000 titles of e-books that Lawrie and I have purchased via Amazon Kindle e-books since 2008.

When Lawrie passed away in September 2018, I continued to buy e-books on the account because it was easier than trying to sort out yet another problem. I read on average three or four books a week; it's a method to fill the hours and keep from thinking about him.

I recently purchased another Kindle to replace my aging and finicky reader. As I have done many times before, I logged in to connect my new reader to the account. I haven't logged in for quite awhile and the site wanted me to input a code that had been sent to his cellphone. That cellphone doesn't exist anymore.

So, I called the Amazon help line for assistance - big mistake!

Now that they know he has passed away, they have locked his account and I have lost access to all of the books including the one that I am half-way through reading. It's Amazon's policy that the e-books are not transferable - even to the surviving spouse. 

I'm frustrated and angry. I'm the only person who has been ordering and paying for the e-books since Lawrie passed away, but I am not allowed to access them or any of the previous titles.

I asked for a supervisor's contact information and was told, "We don't have supervisors. We are the last line." 

Great, just great.

This is another emotional kick in the teeth for surviving spouses. 


UPDATE: three full days of chatting on the help line with a variety of agents, two phone calls, and several emails later, it looks like I have a solution to the problem. Fingers-crossed. 

Cheers Lynda 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

A little wine research and development: CORKED

Friday was research and development day for my newest novel, Corked

It's a murder-mystery set in a local, but fictitious, winery. 

With over three hundred wineries in British Columbia Canada, it was a challenge to pick a name for my winery, that wasn't already in use. I decided to use one of Lawrie's favourite expressions, and called it the No Regrets Winery. It is supposedly located in the southern part of the Okanagan Valley. 

For authenticity in the story I picked the brains of my winey-friends Prudence Mayer owner of Ruby Blues on the Naramata Bench, in Penticton, Sharon Hickey who works at Ruby Blues, plus wine consultant and long-time friend, Eric von Krosigk at Frind Estate in West Kelowna. 

Sharon Hickey and Kerry Younie - let's go!

This past week was bottling time at Ruby Blues for their whites, Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Viognier, Riesling, and White Stiletto. Sparky and I received an invite to pop out and watch the action, so we did. Early Friday morning I drove to the property just in time to see the crew start the process. What an amazing operation. 

Rudy tipped the clean bottles onto the line, to be whisked away and cleaned, then filled, capped and capsuled. The bottles automatically made their way along the line until they arrived at the boxing station where Sharon Hickey and Kerry Younie checked each one for correct placement of the labels, and that it had been filled to the proper level, then added six each to the case before it passed under the taping device and slid down the line to be stacked on the wooden pallet. Wine-maker, Blair Gillingham took turns with Melanie, Spencer, Paul, and Prudence lifting and stacking the boxes. 

The hard-working crew were flying to keep up with the speeding bottles. At the end of the day they had bottled eighteen pallets of wine. 

That equals 18 pallets x 56 boxes on each pallet x 12 bottles in each box or 12096 bottles of yummy Ruby Blues wine. So, 12096 times in one day someone picked up a bottle, examined the label and the fill line, then placed it in the box. That's a shoulder-killing repetitive movement all for our sakes, so that we can enjoy the delicious product. 

Video of bottling line and workers in action.

When you read Corked, keep them in mind.

The automated line is the brain-child of Norman Cole, founder and owner of Artus Bottling Ltd. Started in 2005 the company provides a much-needed, mobile beverage bottling for the small to medium-sized wineries and cideries in the Okanagan Valley. Without this service many of the smaller companies struggled with maintaining their own equipment for use two a year; once in the spring to bottle the whites, and again in the fall to package up the reds.

Ruby Blues Wine & Gift Shop

In a few days, I will pop back out to Ruby Blues Winery to purchase a few bottles of their newest releases. 


Lynda and The Sparkinator

Want more info? Check the webpage for Ruby Blues

Frind Estate in West Kelowna webpage


Book #1 of the Death in the Vineyards series
coming soon!

Cover design by Mary Fry Designs

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Rocking around the Christmas tree ....

My sisters and I, about 1954.    
Merry Christmas everyone! 

I know, it's not politically correct to say that anymore, but I was brought up celebrating Christmas. 

Our family always went to church - two days a year - Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday. How many of you did that? Come on now, hands up. 

Dad's parents were a strict Baptist mother, and a father that was probably agnostic if not atheist. Mom was adopted when she was seven by couple who had recently moved from Iceland to Canada, so her religious upbringing centred around the Lutheran doctrine. My parents compromised. Any time we did go to church it was at the United Church. 

Most years Mom pressured us into observing her favourite Icelandic custom, opening our presents on Christmas Eve after the midnight service. Every year she had great hopes that we would sleep in and not be excitedly rampaging around the house at four in the morning. For us, it was a thrill to stay up and rip into pretty packages, but then in the morning we had nothing more to unwrap, so it was a bit of a let-down. 

Kids! Always wanting more.

Bralorne BC United Church 

Our presents were warm clothes and skis. Books and hobby items, like a wood burning set for my second oldest sister Joann. Stuffed animals and dolls when we were younger. A wooden bed for a new doll. It was handmade and painted bright blue by Dad. A big candy cane, nuts in their shells, and a juicy Japanese orange stuffed into one of  Dad's woolen work socks; the same woolen socks that were pressed into service when we had a cold. Our necks and chests would be smeared with stinky Vicks Vaporub and Dad's sock wrapped around our throats then pinned in place with a huge safety pin. 

One year when I was about four, Mom and Dad ordered a red tricycle through the Sears Christmas catalogue. Our parents were out at an adult Christmas party and our two teenage sisters were either working or visiting their friends. My third sister, Judith who was about ten at the time, and I were home alone. It was the early 1950's and it wasn't a big deal to leave your elementary-aged kid in charge of a preschooler. 

Judith found the shipping box and insisted on assembling the trike. We played with it for an hour or two, then she took it apart and put it back in the box. Judith swore me to secrecy. "I'll pound you if you blab," she threatened as older siblings tend to do. On Christmas morning our unsuspecting dad spent a bit of time putting my new tricycle together - again.

 Christmas morning, before being sent to play outside we had a big breakfast, hearty enough to keep us away from the kitchen until later in the day. Mom wasn't an enthusiastic cook most days, but she really put her heart into the special family dinners. Christmas dinner was centred around the biggest damn turkey she could find, and served with baked sweet potatoes, mashed white potatoes, cauliflower with cheese sauce, Brussels sprouts, peas, gravy, cranberry sauce, olives, celery pieces filled with Cheese-Whiz, and pickles. Everyone, kids included, was served a tiny glass of Sandeman's Port in celebration of the holiday.

Mom may not have liked cooking, but she loved to bake. She typically started the Christmas baking in mid-October. Her Christmas cakes were weighty, twenty-five pounds of dried fruit for eight cakes, and took up to ten hours to bake in a slow oven. I remember her staying up all night, checking the oven every hour and pulling out the smallest cakes in the middle of the night; the bigger ones weren't ready until breakfast-time the next morning. In later years as her four daughters married, her Christmas cake recipe was used for our wedding cakes. 

Mom making a Christmas cake for a wedding

Her other speciality was the traditional Icelandic vinartera a seven-layer torte, always seven layers, not more not less. Each layer was slathered with a concoction of cooked dates, butter, and vanilla. Mom preferred to use the more expensive dates instead of stewed prunes, and round pans instead of square. She would wrap the layered cakes in tin-foil and hide them in a dark, cool place, until Christmas Eve, then she would carefully unwrap one cake and generously ice the top and sides and liberally sprinkle it with cinnamon. Vinartera is a rich, filling dessert that will keep for many months. It was a family source of amusement that Mom would make enough vinartera to last into spring, plus shortbread, sugar cookies, snowballs, and squares but we weren't allowed to touch any of it until Christmas Eve. 

Does that sound familiar? Did your Mom or Grandmother do the same? Hoard the goodies then put the entire family into a near-diabetic coma with a holiday overload of sugar and calories? 

Merry Christmas everyone, and here's to a happier and healthy 2021!


Lynda and The Sparkinator

Murder and mayhem. Revenge and romance, 

Isla Mujeres Mysteries

featuring Sparky the pure-bred, Mexican-low-rider-beach-mutt.  

Click on the link below to grab your copy today!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Two Canucks create American Thanksgiving dinner in Mexico

Thursday, November 26th 2009  

A few years ago, Frank Marcigliano the principal owner of the Casa IxChel Hotel, asked if Lawrie and I would be able to help him out with a small problem. He was going into the hospital for a hip operation back in the US, and needed someone to oversee the American Thanksgiving dinner at his restaurant on Isla. This was to be the inaugural turkey dinner for Casa Louisa. In our previous lives, Lawrie has managed three restaurants, and I have managed two hotels. How hard could it be? 

The first challenge was finding the necessary ingredients. A road trip to Cancun was required. Costco for turkey, pumpkin pies, and whipping cream. Sam’s Club for the aluminum roasting pans. Wal-Mart for gravy ingredients. Europea Wine store for cranberry jelly in the imported foods section. And the flea market for cranberry jelly ramekins and gravy boats. We searched all of the stores for sweet potatoes, yams, possible Thanksgiving decorations for the tables, and came up empty. 

Two days later we went back to Costco to pick up a terrific canvas banner to advertise the event. Then we put the call out to island gringo friends for spices and herbs for the turkey stuffing. Mary Simpson set Charlie over with sage, and thyme. Harriet Lowe sent Richard on his moto with three other necessary herbs. Hmmm, there’s a theme there. The women “sent” the guys on the errand. 

The second challenge was our lack of Spanish! Miguel the hotel manager at the time, was very fluent in English and was a great help when he was available to translate. The kitchen staff and most of the waitstaff spoke Spanish, period. It is amazing how much can be communicated with sign language, demonstration of what you want (like charades), and laughter. I loved the look of perplexed concentration the chefs had on their faces while they tried so hard to understand the gringa, and then we would all holler “Miguel!” and he would hustle over to translate the instructions. 

The third challenge was measurements. In Mexico, as in Canada, the measurements and temperatures are metric, not imperial. All of the recipes and instructions that we had for foods such as turkey stuffing or sweet potato puree were in imperial measurements. Again, the look of perplexed concentration from the kitchen staff, and I realized I would have to translate the measurements as well, English to Spanish, and imperial to metric, then metric to actual quantities – kilos of potatoes, bread croutons, onions, celery, sweet potatoes or yams – to be purchased. I must say I now have a greater appreciation for what goes on in a restaurant kitchen. 

This was the first time that any of the staff had made a traditional turkey dinner and it was fun to watch them learning the different dishes and techniques; creating roasted turkey, stuffing, gravy, and mashed yams. The idea of cranberry jelly caused a few raised eyebrows. 

“Why do you put marmalade on meat?” 

 “Because, that what our ancestors did.” 

The fourth challenge was getting the dinners out to the groups of guests – quickly. Fortunately, between Lawrie’s past experiences at busy restaurants in Canada, like Magnum’s at the Lakeside Hotel, and the Cellar Bistro at Hillside Estate Winery, he was able to show us ahead of time how to organize the turkey portions for quick plating. The guys in the kitchen were great! They had it down flat in two minutes. 

Lawrie was the sociable host and front-end guy, getting everyone seated, drinks ordered, and keeping an eye on the tables. I was in the kitchen overseeing the mayhem. 

We had so many reservations on the books, that we had to scrounge up another turkey. We had a lot of fun working together, and that big glass of wine at the end of the evening was really wonderful! 

Happy Thanksgiving 2020 to all of our American friends. 

Cheers Lynda and The Sparkinator

Sunday, October 25, 2020

How would the 'Social Butterfly' cope with COVID isolation?

Lawrie - forever 18 
In the quiet of my Canadian apartment I often find myself wondering how my husband, Lawrie, would have reacted to the COVID pandemic that has forever changed our world. As many of you know, he passed away in 2018 and didn't have to cope with the draconian restrictions of this new era of little or no social contact.  I think Lawrie would have found the changes frustrating. 

Lawrie was so sociable he was affectionately nick-named the social butterfly. The family joked that like his mom, he could have a conversation with anyone including dead ants (that's ants not aunts!). He loved hugging and dancing and being around people. These are now forbidden activities or, at the very least, frowned upon in our new world. 

We retired in 2008 to live full-time on Isla Mujeres mainly because we enjoyed the warm, friendly and very welcoming Mexican culture. As retirees in a foreign country we didn't have a lot of responsibilities other than a little house maintenance and a few chores, so we hung out with friends and family. Island life, or more specifically tropical island life suited him perfectly! Sun, sand, shorts, and happy people.

At the Soggy Peso making new friends
Lawrie and I enjoyed spending the majority of our time together but, if he had been forced into isolation for several months with only Sparky and me to talk to, it would have been a an unbearable hardship for him. He loved to visit our favourite restaurants and bars on Isla Mujeres for a tasty meal and a beer or two but more importantly just to chat with other people. To listen to their stories. To get to know them a little better. 

Me, on the other hand, I can be a bit of a hermit at times. And I rarely make phone calls, partly due to the echo of my father's voice nagging at his four daughters and Mom for being on the phone too much. Dad passed away in 1968, but I still can't tune him out. Weird, I know, but every time I think about phoning someone Dad's voice starts nattering in the background about the cost of long distance calls. Thanks Dad, for that little anti-social oddity in my character. 

Mature-teenagers at the Soggy Peso on Isla

Then, with the COVID pandemic, there is the mask issue. Lawrie had a beard, well-groomed, but a beard. Wearing a mask in a hot and humid climate would have been a nightmare for him. I can hear him grousing now. I'm sure I would have had to invest in earplugs for me and perhaps for Sparky. But, Lawrie being Lawrie, would have found an upbeat way to manage the situation. He didn't have many unhappy days in his life.

In March of 2020, I returned to Canada because I wanted to be in a country where I spoke the language, knew how to get medical assistance, and would be closer to my family. Due to the COVID safety protocols I typically only see my friends about once every two weeks. Sometimes it is for dinner out, or a cup of coffee, or a visit to one of the local wineries. 

Writing my new mystery novel, sorting my collection of digital photos, or promoting my mystery novels on social media keeps me busy and feeling productive. Most days I walk Sparky four times a day, except for the two days recently when he had intestinal troubles and need to go out - now - every 90 minutes. It was a sleepless two nights but I finally got his digestive system settled down again and we are back on our regular schedule. 

It's interesting the different ways people cope with isolation and seclusion. Some of my friends have become super productive creating a pile of artistic work to combat the boredom. One of my writer friends has produced three or perhaps four novels since March 2020. He's a writing machine. Other friends keep busy with handcrafts, or learn new skills. Some create food masterpieces and share them with neighbours, like me. I happily oblige and eat their delicious offerings. Some have lost weight, others have found the lost weight. We all know fat cells have GPS, returning time and again to the same owner. The balance of weight lost and weight gained helps maintain earth's place in the solar system. It must be true. I read it on FaceBook.

Living in a country with a decent road system and being the happy owner of a proper car instead of a funky little golf cart, Sparky and I have been taking road trips to visit old friends, my step-son and his family, and my sister and her family. However, since the weather has changed and winter has arrived - a month early - my road trips will be curtailed for a few months. Planning short road trips for 2021 will give me something to look forward to. In the meantime Sparky has discovered snow! He thinks it is very entertaining.

For some the isolation is tedious. For others it's manageable. How about you? What do you do to cope with the boredom, and seclusion?


Lynda and The Sparkinator

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Isla Mujeres Mysteries Books #1-3

Monday, September 14, 2020

Chasing the 'funnies' on a Sunday afternoon

I grew up with an abundance of reading material .... what about you? 

My best memories of reading goes back to when my three sisters and I were still all living at home, so probably late 1950's. Comic books like Archie, Blonde and Dagwood, Little Lulu, Richie Rich, Superman, and Uncle Scrooge, were hot commodities to be traded between friends in our tiny townsite of Bradian. 

After finishing our chores, Saturday afternoons were free and clear to visit friends, trade comic books (some that were more prized than others and commanded a two for one price) and return home to devour our new reading material. However, our dad happened to be a big fan of comic books as well. We had to share with him, sometimes giving up the best ones for him to read first! 

But the real fun happened on Sundays. The Vancouver Sun always arrived in our town a day late. The travel time between Vancouver and Bralorne was about twelve hours of hard driving, so getting the news, pre-television, pre-internet, was a really big deal. 

The thick weekend paper would hit the front step, and the chase would be on with my long-legged father running up and down the streets holding the Saturday 'funnies' hostage while his four daughters pelted after him. We hollered and laughed and yelled like banshees. 

Some of the neighbours would cheer on dad, others would be rooting for one of his daughters to snatch the prized weekend funnies out of his hand. 

Being the youngest and the shortest, I never had a chance so I resorted to subterfuge. I would hide in the one and only bathroom in our company-owned home. Dad would return triumphant and dash into the bathroom, the only room in the house with a locking door, and ta-da, there I was ready to claim my share of Donald Duck, Little Abner, Henry, Jiggs or Nancy. 

Sometime in the mid-1950's when I was four or maybe five, my parents purchased an extensive collection of sixteen encyclopedia-sized books from a traveling salesman. 

The books started with nursery rhymes and progressed to more complex stories that were intended for readers at a grade twelve level. 

I don't remember what the series was called, but I do remember the spines of the books ranged from light blue to deep blue and on to dark green as you progressed through the stories, gradually reading more and more difficult material. 

Then when I was nine, my dad gave me his copy of the Springhill Nova Scotia mining disaster. On October 23, 1958 there was a 'bump,' a shift in the earth that resembled an underground earthquake. 

It killed 75 men, and trapped 99 more. By November 1st 1958 the last of the survivors was found. After that, the search only recovered bodies. 

So, yeah, a little light reading recommended to me by my dad.

My next conquest was all of the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Trixie Beldon, novels ever written plus Little Women and Little MenBy the time that we moved from that tiny mining town in 1961, I had blown through all of the reading material in our house

When we moved to a larger city, Chilliwack BC, Dad introduced me to the concept of a library, and being able to choose whatever I wanted to read. My favourites included the entire Zane Grey collection of western novels and anything written by Farley Mowat.

My voracious reading habit has followed me throughout my life. 

Fortunately, both Lawrie and I shared a passion for reading, and for the most part read the same authors. Occasionally I veer into historic novels, and he would find a thriller series that interested him.

When Lawrie and I moved to Mexico in 2008, we made the switch to electronic readers. Books in English were difficult to find, and books in English that we hadn't already read were a rare find. 

Our reading habit became quite costly. We typically ordered an e-book a day from Amazon and devoured it before bedtime. 

Now, I live across the street from a fabulous public library. I can indulge my passion freely.

What are you reading today?



A whole bunch of entertaining mysteries. 

Murder and mayhem, revenge and romance on a tiny island off the coast of Mexico! 

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How to bring an entire village to a standstill.

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