Saturday, December 30, 2017

"A Tangled Web" by Mike Martin

One of my blogging friends, Crafty Gardener, occasionally writes book reviews on her site that primarily focuses on plants and artistic endeavors. One of Linda's favourite authors is Mike Martin. He's a Canadian who was born in Newfoundland, the location he has picked for his Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series. A recent review on Linda's blog led me to his newest book, A Tangled Web.

A Tangled Web is the sixth title in the series, but can be read as a stand-alone without difficulty.

Sgt. Winston Windflower is a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer of Cree heritage that is posted in Grand Bank, Newfoundland. The story opens with a missing five-year-old child, Sarah Quinlan. The plot quickly expands like the interconnected threads of a spider's web until the child is found, and the perpetrator is dealt with. After all, "The RCMP always gets their man."

Wayne and I visited Newfoundland in 2009 and again in 2014. It's an exciting destination to explore with small outport villages.

There's a real town called Grand Bank. It's a small coastal village of about 2,500 on the Burin Peninsula four hour's drive west of St. John's.

Not only does Mike Martin like to use his native province in his writing, I enjoy reading about places I've visited. Now, back to the story.

Life is usually calm in Grand Bank. Sgt. Winston Windflower is well known and respected. His wife, Sheila Hillier, is the mayor with a contentious council member. The web quickly expands to a solar panel factory that the city is depending on to wrestle the economy away from a dwindling fishing industry, a ferry crossing to Sydney, Nova Scotia, a long drive during a dangerous snow storm, and a surprise ending.

The author could have chosen any locale in which to set his story, but the Newfoundland setting is a perfect match.

Mike's writing style gave me a strong mental picture of the people and places. I was able to relate personally. Eveb if you've never been to Newfoundland, the plot and characters will make you feel right at home.

You can find out more about Mike Martin at:

Mike Martin on Crime Writers of Canada
Mike Martin on Twitter
Mike Martin's Author Page on Amazon
Mike Martin on !ndigo
Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series on Facebook
A Tangled Web review on the Crafty Gardener blog
Mike Martin book reviews on the Crafty Gardener blog

A Tangled Web is available in print and ebook formats. Online options include,, !ndigo/Chapters, and Kobo. -- Margy

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

5 Favourite 2017 Margy Meanders Posts

Come along on a year-end tour
of the five most popular
2017 Margy Meanders posts.

My Margy Meanders blog is where I share posts about general topics. Looking back at 2017, here are some of the most popular posts. Click each title to read the entire post.

Thunderstorms in Skagit Valley -- When Wayne and I come to Bellingham we like to explore the area. A favourite day trip is to drive scenic Chuckanut Drive south along the coast towards the Skagit Valley. After living most of my life in Southern California, I really enjoy experiencing the changing seasons and the spectacular weather we have both in Washington State and home in our Powell Lake float cabin.

Back in Time at Boomers -- One popular post was about a favourite restaurant in Bellingham. It's a classic! Just like the 50's, you drive up and park, flash your lights and give your order to a carhop. Boomers is popular with locals including students from nearby Western Washington University. You never know who you might run into. My favourite meal is a Boomer Burger, waffle fries and a peanut butter shake. Yum!

Come Fly with Us -- We travel to Bellingham about once a month. One attraction is our airplane. When we immigrated to Canada, we decided to leave our Piper Arrow in Bellingham in her hangar, an important consideration in the Pacific Northwest. In this post you get to fly around the pattern at Bellingham Airport. We also fly to places like Port Townsend for breakfast, Oregon for USC sports and airplane camping.

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread -- Whether I'm home at the float cabin or in a condo in town, I love to cook. Of my cooking posts this year, the most popular was for Cranberry Orange Nut Bread. And it's a favourite of mine as well. I usually have all of the ingredients on hand, making it a quick and easy thing to make for a breakfast meal or a late evening sweet treat. Both of my parents were excellent cooks, so I guess I come by it rightly.

"Paddle to the Sea" -- There was a exciting event this year in Powell River. Canada C3 (meaning coast to coast to coast) was a commemorative ocean expedition that started in Toronto, followed the St. Lawrence to the Atlantic, traversed the Northwest Passage, and completed their 150 day journey in Victoria, BC. Along the way they stopped in my home town. They brought with them Paddle to the Sea, a carving used in the film adaptation of the book written by Holling C. Holling. (Click here to see the complete film.) When I taught school, I read Paddle to the Sea to my elementary students. Little did I know back then that I would move to Canada. And little did I know that my life would come to a full circle in a unique way.

We hope you enjoyed the tour. You can read more about our off-the-grid lifestyle and adventures in Wayne's Coastal BC Stories series of books and e-books. Go to for more information and ordering details and get an ebook copy of Up the Lake for free.

Want to see a review from my Powell River Books blog? Check out my 5 Favourite 2017 Powell River Books Blog Posts. Hope your 2017 was as eventful as ours. Give us an update in the comments below. -- Margy

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Swedish Spritz Cookies

Family traditions are important to me, especially now that my family includes only Wayne and me.  Christmas has always been a time to remember our heritage.

I just finished making my favourite Xmas cookies and wanted to share this post again for my new readers.

Grandma's family came from Norway by ship and through Ellis Island. Her father (Swedish) was a chef, and was sponsored by the Adventist church to work at the Kellogg Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. Grandma's Aunt Mary (from her dad's Swedish side) served as a missionary in South America, but often visited at Christmas when my mom was young. Along with amazing tales of living in a far off country, she brought her Swedish baking skills for holiday goodies.

So, one of our family Christmas traditions has been to make Swedish Spritz Cookies each year. The old family recipe card is in Mom's handwriting with the title:

Spritz - Swedish Cookies (Aunt Mary)

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg (or three egg yolks)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons brandy (if you have some)
2 1/3 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Be sure the butter is firm and do not make on a warm day. Handle as little as possible.

Cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg and flavourings. Add flour, salt, and baking powder. Don't overwork!

Place dough in a cookie press. Press cookies onto a sheet and bake in a 335 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.

Remove cookies to cool, and store in an airtight container. These are rich, crispy cookies that make a nice Christmas, or anytime treat. -- Margy

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Driftwood Santa Wall Hanging

A bit of the cabin for Christmas in town.
Does wood ever speak to you? Sounds silly, but every time I pick a piece of driftwood out of the lake I listen to what it has to say. Most often it's, "I just came by to help you keep warm this winter."

But other times, driftwood has a different message. Stumps beg to become floating planters. Medium sized gnarly pieces ask to come aboard to decorate our deck. Smaller pieces often have a unique message of their own.

This piece of driftwood told me it wanted to become a Christmas decoration we could bring out each year to celebrate the holiday.

I must be honest, I saw an article in the Peak newspaper advertising a local crafter's wares at Artique, the local artist cooperative shop. When I saw this piece of wood float by, I knew what it would become.

All it took was some acrylic paint, yarn to make a ball for the top of Santa's hat, and two nails and a piece of yarn on the back for a hanger. The driftwood shape was perfect just the way it was for the task.

I enjoy using handmade decorations for the season, and my driftwood Santa wall hanging fits right in for our city or cabin decorations.

Are you making anything special for Christmas this year? -- Margy

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Overwintering Geraniums

When I lived in Southern California, geraniums were perennials. They remained in the garden year after year. Now that I live in Coastal BC with freezing temperatures and frost, they act as annuals when they're outdoor plants.

Covering method.

One year I tried saving my geraniums by mulching and covering them with plastic in their repurposed BBQ planter. It was marginally successful and several roots made it through the winter months to regrow when spring arrived.

Dormancy method.
Another year I tried the dormancy method. The plants were removed, the roots cleaned and the stems cut back before being wrapped in newspaper. After spending the winter in our condo guest bathtub, regeneration was again marginally successful.

Taking the planter indoors isn't an option. We travel during the winter and indoor cabin temperature can drop below freezing.

 Modified Indoor
Overwintering Method

Removing geraniums to transport to the condo in town.
This year I'm trying something new. I call it the modified indoor overwintering method. I removed the plants from their BBQ planters, but left their root balls intact and covered with soil.

I removed dead leaves and remaining flowers. A cardboard box lined with a plastic bag made was a good transfer container to take them to the condo in town. We leave heaters on low during winter, so there's no risk of freezing.

At the Dollar Store I purchased a plastic tub for $4.00. It was just the right size to hold all the geranium plants (a dozen) from my two BBQ planters.

Geraniums in their tub after a month indoors.
I filled the bottom with empty individual-sized plastic water bottles. Then I placed the geranium plants with their soil covered root balls in the tub. In between each plant I placed additional potting mix to help absorb and hold moisture. I placed the tub next to the glass door in the bedroom and leave the blinds open to let sunlight reach the plants.

When we go to town (about once a week) I check the moisture in the soil and add water as needed. I also remove any dead or dying leaves.  The plants have been in the condo for one month now and they are still doing well.

I will give you an update in the spring, but the experiment is worth it. For an investment of $5.00 (one tub and one small bag of potting mix) I'm potentially saving $35 (the cost of 12 plants minus my investment). And I'll have larger plants to start with. Another bonus.

Do you overwinter plants? What are some of the methods you use? -- Margy

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Value is Their Name: Value Village

I always go to thrift stores at home in Powell River. I keep a list of items I need or want, and sooner or later they show up.

Our home base in the States is Bellingham. We picked Bellingham because it has an airport for our plane, excellent health care, and city-folk things like shopping. When we are in town, I love to go exploring. I've found lots of thrift stores, but Value Village is my favourite.

Value Village is department store size and part of a chain of about 200 thrift stores across the US, Canada and Australia. They have mostly recycled items, but you will find some inexpensive new items mixed in, especially for holidays such as Halloween and Christmas. Their largest section is for clothing. They have some furniture, and a good mix of household items. Their prices are reasonable, and the profits are shared with local charities.

Recycling is an easy way to help our environment. By donating your unwanted items to a thrift store, they don't end up in a landfill. By purchasing a recycled item, you give back in two ways: to the charities the stores serve, and by giving a recycled item a new lease on life.

So, go out and have some guilt free shopping. It's good for you and the environment.

You will find the Bellingham Value Village off Meridian near Winco (my favourite grocery store).

Bellingham Value Village
150 East Bellis Fair Parkway Bellingham, WA 98226
(360) 733-233

Do you shop at thrift stores? What are some of your favourite ones? What is the best bargain you've ever found? -- Margy

Friday, December 1, 2017

Slip the Surly Bonds

This post was inspired by the famous aviation poem High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Eighteen year old Magee was an American who crossed the border into Canada to volunteer for the Royal Canadian Air Force. In 1941, he was assigned to the 412th Fighter Squadron at Digby, England.

He was inspired during a test flight in the new (then) Spitfire V to the high (then) altitude of 30,000 feet. He included the poem in a letter to his parents shortly thereafter. At the age of 19, Magee was killed in a mid-air collision with an RAF trainer.

I often think of this verse as we fly through and around the clouds here in the Pacific Northwest. It truly feels like you could "touch the face of God." -- Margy

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Beef Tamale Pie

Preparing the filling.
When we go to town, I cook things for our suppers that can also be frozen for future meals.  During colder months I like to make a large tamale pie to fit the bill. I started with a recipe by at The Spruce

Tamale Pie

Filling Ingredients:
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped 
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1-8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1-14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes, cut up
  • 1-15 oz can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1-15 oz can kidney beans, drained
  • 1- 2.25 oz can sliced olives, drained
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preparing the cornmeal.

Cornmeal Base and Topping:
  • 3/4cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese for topping (optional)


Saute onions, garlic, green pepper, and celery in olive oil until translucent. Add chili powder and cumin and cook briefly to bring out the flavours.  Add tomato sauce, tomatoes, corn, kidney beans, olives, sugar, and salt. Heat to a low boil, then simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes until the flavours marry and it thickens.

Assembling the ingredients.
In a saucepan, combine cornmeal, salt and chili powder. Add water and cook over medium heat. Stir constantly until thickened. Mix in butter. If it's too thick, add extra water. Use cooking spray on a 9.5 x 9.5 inch (or similar) deep baking dish. Spread half of the cornmeal mixture on the bottom. Next layer all of the filling. Spread the remaining cornmeal over the top. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over the crust about 10 minutes before the casserole is done.

Ready to serve with a golden brown cheese topping.
It was so good, Wayne and I ate almost a third. But I still had two large servings to freeze for future meals. And the best part, I didn't have to go to the store. Everything in the recipe was available in my pantry, refrigerator and freezer.

Do you have any favourite recipes that freeze well? We'd love to hear about them. -- Margy

Friday, November 24, 2017

Little Squalicum Park in Bellingham, WA

Bellingham Bay can easily be reached at Little Squalicum Park. It is an official Dog Off Leash Area but there's plenty of trails for people to walk, especially at low tide.

 I went to watch the sunset and found a family playing fetch with their dogs at the water's edge.

As you can see, Squalicum Beach is a popular place for dogs to run and play. This one sure was enjoying himself along with his humans. -- Margy

Monday, November 20, 2017

University of Southern California

For us, a trip to Los Angeles always means a visit to the University of Southern California. Wayne received his Master's Degree from USC. My dad almost got his doctorate there. We are what you might call a USC family, unless you talked to my Mom who graduated from UCLA. That must have been a marriage almost as difficult as my great grandmother who was Norwegian and married a Swede.

This week Wayne and I are on a "winter" getaway. The purpose is two-fold. We want sun and warmth while it's cold and rainy at our float cabin home. We also want to go to USC sporting events, especially the annual USC vs UCLA football game at the historic Memorial Coliseum.

What sport is more Southern California than beach volleyball? We sat in on a Sunday morning practice to soak up some rays while enjoying a game.

We also saw women's basketball at the Galen Center. This time the Women of Troy played California State University at Long Beach, my alma matre. That makes it another rivalry.

Each day we walked to our favourite bench in the main quad on campus. Here we can soak up those much needed rays and relax while reading and people watching.

We also took time to walk the campus. Buildings old and new are made with beautiful brickwork. Staying across the street in the Radisson Hotel makes walking everywhere easy.

USC has a long tradition. It welcomed its first 53 students in 1880. My dad worked on his doctorate in the 1950s and Wayne received his degree in 1976. Once a Trojan, always a Trojan. Fight on! -- Margy

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cable Airport in Upland, California

Do you like to watch airplanes land? Do you want to make Southern California a destination, but want to avoid busy airspace? Want a great hamburger with a view?

Come to Cable Airport. Cable, in Upland, California, is the largest privately owned public-access airport in the United States.

Airplane aficionados Dewey and Maude Cable began its construction in 1945. At the time, the area was rocky, rural, scrub land. It is still rocky, but no longer rural.

Runway 6/24 is lighted and 3864 feet in length. It parallels the nearby the San Gabriel Mountains, with headwind landings about 90% of the time. Arrival from the north through Cajon Pass and along the San Gabriels keeps you out of Ontario International Airport’s Class C airspace. It’s still a good idea to talk to ATC because it gets really busy along this route.

Cable Airport is uncontrolled and averages 252 takeoffs and landings daily, 80% from the over 450 aircraft home based here. There are two IFR approaches: VOR RWY 06 and GPS RWY 06. Coastal fog can reach this far inland and smoggy afternoons often make navigation challenging.

The Cables were well known for their hospitality. The Foothill Flying Club continues the tradition. Rent a plane, take lessons (ground or flight), get information about the area or relax while watching amazing private airplanes come and go. 

If you plan to stay, try the Doubletree Hotel in Claremont on Historic Route 66 (Foothill Blvd). A Yellow Cab costs about $20 plus tip. The Old Schoolhouse is next door with restaurants and shops. Got a hankerin’ for lots (and I mean lots) of good Italian food? Buca di Beppo Restaurant is out front.

Maniac-Mikes restaurant is on-field. It’s open 6-3 daily with indoor and outdoor seating. Forget the $200 hamburger. Get Mike’s Big Burger and fries for only $7.25.

Come to Cable Airport for some fun in the California sun. -- Margy

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Paddle to the Sea" by Holling C. Holling

Last Friday we were honoured to be visited by the Canada C3 expedition ship here in Powell River. Canada C3 has been part of Canada's 150th Anniversary celebration and supports the reconciliation process with indigenous peoples.

Canada C3 (meaning coast to coast to coast) started in Toronto, followed the St. Lawrence to the Atlantic, traversed the Northwest Passage, and will complete their 150 day journey on October 28 in Victoria, BC.

MV Polar Prince icebreaker anchored in Powell River.

The ship was well suited for the Northwest Passage. The MV Polar Prince is a 67 metre (220 ft) former Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker now in service as a research vessel. 

Members of the Tla'amin Nation welcoming the expedition.

The expedition visited Powell River on October 20 and members of the Tla'amin Nation welcomed the participants at Willingdon Beach. Here they shared the canoe carving project currently in progress.

Carving has brought people together to learn about each other.

After Tla'amin Nation Hegus (Chief) Clint Williams, elders and carvers spoke, Canada C3 Expedition Leader Geoff Green brought out a canoe of his own. It was Paddle to the Sea, the carving used in the film adaptation of the book written by Holling C. Holling. (Click here to see the complete film.)

Expedition leader Geoff Green shares Paddle to the Sea with Hegus Clint Williams

The story is about an indigenous boy who carves a small wooden canoe during the winter and releases it the following spring. Etched into the bottom are these words, "Please put me back in the water. I am Paddle-to-the-Sea." The story follows Paddle through the Great Lakes and down the mighty St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean.

Not only did we get to see Paddle to the Sea, but we could hold it and have our picture taken with it. This was a highlight for me.

When I taught school, I read Paddle to the Sea to my elementary students. Later, when the film version was released, that was added to my lessons.

Little did I know back then that I would move to Canada. And little did I know that my life would come to a full circle in a unique way.

Have you had such an experience? How did it happen for you? -- Margy