My name is Don Bell, and I decided to add this About Me page because people ask how I came to build a website featuring old fashioned dessert recipes.
They are often surprised to learn that I maintain this website myself and that it actually helps to pay my bills. But more important, creating it has truly been a rewarding experience in my life, and this page explains why.
Occasionally, someone with a large collection of recipes will want to know how to start a food blog of their own. So, I wrote a special page that explains the behind-the-scenes process. I'm always happy to share my Website Secret with people so they can build a recipe site of their own.
But more about that later.
Permit me to share a little of my background with you first.
I work out of my country home in the beautiful Kawartha Lakes tourist region near Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. Our acreage was once part of Bellthorpe, my family's farm, and the fields, stream, and forest that I once roamed as a young boy now provide both recreation and a strong sense of belonging.
My wife Vicki and I have been married for over 40 years, and we're blessed with four grown children — two boys and two girls. I suppose they consider us senior citizens now, but we've yet to grasp that concept.
Like most people in this world, we've had our share of ups and downs, but God has truly blessed us with a wonderful life together.
While planing for an early retirement, I looked for a way to earn additional income from home since I've never had the luxury of a company pension plan and family adoption expenses in the 1990s took all our savings.
But, it had to be something not too difficult that I would enjoy doing. Life is much too short to do otherwise. It also had to be something that would require little or no startup money and involve minimal financial risk.
I happened to read a book titled Acres of Diamonds, first published back in 1915. It contains an amazing lecture by Russell H. Conwell that contains an amazing statement:
"You can get rich right where you are. At home. Not somewhere else. Not a person has secured great wealth by going away who might have secured as much by some other means if he had stayed at home."
Applying Conwell's wise advice, I searched throughout our house to see what I had at hand that could be used to generate some extra income. Besides my Mac computer, I discovered a unique collection of my mother's old fashioned cookbooks and handmade recipe scrapbooks.
And since I love desserts (far too much according to my wife), I decided to look for ways to make money by sharing our family's dessert recipes with people who love to read and collect old fashioned recipes.
People wonder, "Where did you find all those wonderful vintage dessert recipes?" Well, happily for me, I discovered them all sitting on a dusty shelf in a dimly lit corner of our basement.
You see, throughout her youth, my mother loved to collect recipe clippings and colorful food illustrations, and she pasted them in scrapbooks. Later on, she inherited several of her mother's handwritten recipe books and some vintage cookbooks that are now in the public domain.
I inherited Mom's collection along with a few cookbooks and family recipes used by my Grannie Bell on my father's side of the family. So, thanks to Mom and my grandmothers, I now have lots of old fashioned dessert recipes to share with recipe lovers like you.
Mom and my grandmothers loved their families and doted on their grandchildren. I was so blessed to know them and to have had their positive influence on my life. Among many things, they left me with the wonderful collection of old fashioned dessert recipes that I share on this site.
They led very full and interesting lives. Their life journeys weren't easy when compared to today's standards, but they seldom complained. They rose above circumstances and were thankful to God for His strength and provision. Allow me to introduce them to you.
My mother, Daisy Adelaide McIlmoyle (1911-1985), was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1911. She and her twin brother Herbert were the youngest of 10 children — 6 girls and 4 boys.
Her father was Herbert Leslie McIlmoyle (1872-1936), and her mother was Margaret Annie Adelaide Butler (1878-1951). Originally from Ontario, they took out a homestead near Airdrie in 1901, before moving to Calgary sometime before 1911.
The year Mom was born, her family returned to Ontario, and she was raised on the McIlmoyle family farm at Selwyn, near Lakefield. She often remarked how wonderful it was to grow up in a large, loving family where there was seldom an idle moment, and always time for fun.
As a young woman starting life, she worked as a cook at a Stony Lake resort, and later as an assembler at the Western Clock Company (formerly the Westclox) in Peterborough, until she married my father, William Robert Bell (1908-1990), in the fall of 1939.
It always fascinated me that the McIlmoyles and the Bells lived just 15 miles apart while in Alberta, yet it wasn't until both families moved east to Ontario that Mom and Dad met, while again living just 15 miles apart.
My father first met my mother when he and his father visited the McIlmoyle farm to buy a breeding cow. They married in October 1939, after the Great Depression, when money and work were still scarce.
Dad scoured area farms collecting hundreds of used seed bags which he mended and washed then redeemed for 6 cents apiece to earn enough for Mom's wedding ring. She so treasured that gold wedding ring with its tiny diamonds!
Mom and Dad farmed Grannie Bell's farm in Otonabee Township, which they eventually inherited in 1955. When they retired from farming in 1965, they sold the farm but retained ownership of a 65-acre parcel of land where they built a new house. I eventually inherited the property and moved there with my family.
While in her late teens, around the time the above portrait was taken, Mom created two remarkable scrapbooks in which she pasted clippings from the magazines and newspapers of her day. The clippings mostly feature dessert recipes, but there's also party ideas, homemaking advice, and helpful kitchen tips, along with colorful vintage illustrations — a treasure trove of nostalgia.
Throughout her marriage, Mom also kept several small notebooks in which she wrote her mother's and grandmother's recipes for homemade desserts. Many were obtained either directly from her mother or indirectly through her sisters after their mother's death.
This website owes a huge debt of gratitude to Mom. Many old fashioned dessert recipes featured on this site are carefully transcribed from her handwritten recipe notebooks and scrapbooks.
My Grandma McIlmoyle, Margaret Annie Adelaide Butler (1878-1951), was born in Shropshire, England. At age nine, Grandma emigrated to Canada with her parents in 1887. She married Herbert Leslie McIlmoyle (1872-1936) in 1899, and having moved to Alberta, they became homesteaders near Airdrie in 1901.
Grandma worked long, hard days as a pioneer rancher's wife. She watered cattle, forked hay, groomed horses, and tended her large vegetable garden. She also kept house and prepared hearty, delicious meals for her hardworking husband and eight small children.
Nothing topped a meal off or brightened an exhausting day like a tasty dessert. Grandma's time was limited, so she chose the proven family recipes she knew would always turn out delicious.
Life was often difficult for homesteaders on the lonely prairie. They needed to be strong and resourceful. Once, when Grandpa was in Airdrie purchasing supplies, the billowing smoke of a grass fire loomed on the horizon. Leaving the older children in charge of the youngest, Grandma quickly harnessed the oxen and ploughed furrows around the house and barn to prevent disaster.
Sometime after their eighth child was born, they moved to Calgary where my mother (Daisy) and her twin brother (Herbert) were born in 1911. That same year the family moved back to Ontario, and Grandpa eventually purchased a farm at Selwyn, near the Village of Lakefield.
Grandma McIlmoyle died when I was very young, so I have only fleeting memories of her. I cannot recall her cooking or baking, though I must have sampled some of her famous cookies at times. However, my older cousins well remember the taste of Grandma's amazing desserts.
Grandma's legacy of cooking skills and proven recipes was lovingly passed down to her daughters, and they continued the tradition of baking homemade cakes, pies, puddings, and other delicious treats for their families.
My Grannie Bell, Annie Stewart Gentles (1881-1955), was born in Uphall,
Scotland. Her father was Archibald Gentles (1855-1926),
originally of Muiravonside, and her mother was Ann Stewart MacDonald
(1858-1944), daughter of James MacDonald (1821-1875) of Morayshire,
While in her teen years, Annie and her sister (Margaret Wallace Gentles) attended a commercial business college in Edinburgh, sometime around 1898, during the time when their parents lived in Assam, India.
Her father was a chemist and manager at Young's Oil Company and while accompanied by his wife, he had been sent to India for a year to oversee the building of a new plant for shale oil exploration.
After Annie's parents returned to Scotland, the entire family emigrated to Canada in 1903, and they took out a homestead near Dogpound, about 30 miles north of Calgary, Alberta.
Annie's father and her younger brother, Robert Gentles (1892-1916), built a permanent log house for the family that first prairie winter, while sleeping in a hastily built shack. Annie and Margaret lived with their mother in a cold, drafty covered wagon nearby. It was such a change from their comfortable life in the Old Country! (1)
Annie married my grandfather Ernest Leopold Bell (1863-1936) in 1906, and they began homesteading thirteen miles north of Cochrane near the Beaver Dam Creek. They ranched horses for sale to the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) while raising four children: William Robert Bell, Annie Jessie Bell, Ernest Archibald Gentles Bell, and Margaret Stewart (Daisy) Bell.
Like other young men, Ernie tried his hand at many things. As one of the famous Steele's Scouts, he had fought in the North West Rebellion in 1885. Though slightly under six feet tall, he was nicknamed Shorty, being the shortest of the troop, and rated by some its most expert plainsman.
Ernie had trekked overland to the Klondike gold fields in 1898, taking the arduous Edmonton route. The best claims had already been staked before he arrived at Dawson City, but he did manage to pan a few gold nuggets.
When he wed Annie, Ernie had a Calgary jeweler craft their wedding rings by combining his Klondike gold with Indian gold from a ring that Annie's parents had given to her.
Horses became less in demand after the First World War, so the Bells sold their ranch in 1918, and they moved to Ontario where they purchased a family farm east of Peterborough. Grandpa Ernie died in 1936. (2)
Grannie Bell lived in the other half of our stone farmhouse, so I came to know her well when I was a youngster in the early 1950s. She was Scottish through and through, and an excellent cook. Whenever she baked in her kitchen, I knew to wait patiently nearby.
She would take a golden scone warm from the oven, carefully split it with a table knife, then dab a wee bit of butter and her homemade orange marmalade on it for me. I can still remember the marvelous taste. And her oatmeal cookies were to die for!
Grannie cooked mostly from memory so not many of her written recipes survived. However, several are featured on this site and for that we are grateful.
(1) Big Hill Country (Cochrane and Area Historical Society, 1977), 476.
(2) Ibid., 701-703.
I now had the resources, all those wonderful dessert recipes, but I had a big problem to solve. How would I go about sharing them with others? I spent weeks surfing the Internet hoping to find a solution that would be both profitable and fun to do.
Eventually, an idea formed. I could publish some of the recipes on a website and compile the rest into cookbooks to be sold as a series of ebooks that people could download.
However, I knew nothing about building a website and creating ebooks, let alone starting an online business.
As I continued surfing the Internet, I quickly discovered that there are tons of site-hosting companies and website builders online, and some are even free — you've likely seen their ads on television.
I also discovered that online businesses have a high failure rate. Once you've built the free website, you're left high and dry on your own with very few instructions and little chance of visitor traffic. No matter how beautiful the website is, it's not a business!
I decided I did NOT want to waste my time and hard-earned money on a venture doomed to failure. Nor did I want to pay someone thousands of dollars to build a site for me that I would have no control over later.
I simply wanted to get online and share Grandma's recipes!
One day while searching on Google, I stumbled upon the perfect solution to my problem — a company called SiteSell and its unique opportunity called Solo Build It (or SBI). It was altogether different from anything I had yet seen. It's a simple, all-in-1 package that shows you how to start an online business.
SBI takes Internet novices like me by the hand and helps them turn almost any interest, hobby, or skill into a successful website and online business. And I was encouraged to learn that many SBIers (that's what people using Solo Build It call themselves) are making really good money with their sites.
I have to admit that I was skeptical, but I took the plunge and started this website in May 2004, and the rest as they say, is history. Just look at my site now! Solo Build It was quite simply the answer to my prayers, and I shudder to think what I would have done without it.
Operating this site is a labor of pure joy. It provides me with an interesting, creative outlet, and a wonderful hobby. And it has fulfilled my lifelong desire to earn some extra cash while working at home, giving us the freedom to do whatever we want in our retirement.
There's also the rewarding experience of seeing Grandma's favorite dessert recipes being read by millions of visitors from dozens of countries around the world. Can you imagine what a thrill that is?
The response to the recipes has been amazing, and the words of appreciation I receive from fans who love the old fashioned recipe format and nostalgia mean so much.
Mom and my grandmothers would be both thrilled and proud, and I can't thank you enough for visiting my website and helping to make it all possible.
If starting a food blog or recipe site interests you, be sure to read my Solo Build It Review for step-by-step information on how to begin.
I'd love to share my Website Secret with you.
Don Bell, Site Owner