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Making Progress in London

We are well underway with the new playground at Springbank Park. A few months ago, I committed some funding for a brand new accessible playground in my hometown of London, Ontario. The idea was suggested by London local, Shelah Brook, and now she and I are both part of the team working on the development of the new play area.

We just had our second meeting, with me on Skype, and things are moving quickly. In just a few weeks we will have some designs to look at and I can hardly wait for that. The plan is for a grand opening in the spring. I had committed $130,000 in Canadian funds but the exchange rate is so favorable, I added a little more and now our budget is $150,000 CAD.

I’ve never skyped before and I would rather be there in person but I’m glad to be able to participate so there I am on the laptop.

Photo3_1200There are quite a few people on the team and they are the nicest bunch. (but that’s what everyone says about Canadians!) From left to right we have: Shelah Brook (this was her idea), Julie Michaud, Dianna Clarke, (me), Judy Spencer, Michael Dawthorne, and Terri-Sue Wyatt. Andrew Macpherson, the manager of environmental and parks planning, was there too but somebody had to take the picture!

So that’s my progress report. More updates to come…

They Like Me in Tanzania


When I started posting my cooking videos on youtube, I had no idea how popular they’d become. I did it just for fun because I love to cook and people always asked for my recipes. I’ve made almost a hundred videos now and they want more! I’ve had over ten million views so far (10,249,165 views as of today) with around 25,000 people a day tuning in. Who knew?

And it’s international. People all over the world are making my recipes… from 197 countries! From Iceland to Brunei to Tanzania, they like my cooking. They write to me in broken English and sometimes in Spanish or Polish or Greek. I love it! And here’s the best part: Some people are using my recipes to earn money to help support their families.

~ Maria in Mexico sells my granola in little bags to earn money.

~ Chin Chin in Thailand sells my whole wheat bread to help support her family.

~ Marcio in Brazil sells my pan pizza and hash browns in his pub.

~ Carmen in Ecuador sells my cinnamon rolls to help provide for her children.

It sure feels good to know my recipes are helping people, not to mention that hundreds of thousands of people have made and enjoyed my recipes at home, wherever they are. What are the most watched videos? My fall-off-the-bone ribs; then pan pizza; followed by my hash browns. Yes…. hash browns. I never saw that coming!

I’d like to thank whoever invented the internet for allowing me to share my love of cooking with the world. Who was that? Was it really Al Gore?

If you’re curious about my youtube videos, click here:



Look what showed up on the outside of my kitchen window this morning. It actually cast a shadow on the counter! It’s six inches long! And beautiful. I had to get close to take this photo and he didn’t move at all. Then the gardener showed up and was using a loud blower close by and still he didn’t move. It looked like it was soft and fuzzy and I wanted to touch it but didn’t.

As pretty as it was, I think if it flew past my face I’d freak out. If it collided with one of my hummingbirds, the bird would lose. I wish I could keep it as a pet. Do you think I could train it to attack a squirrel?

We got the front page!

London Free Press e-edition - The London Free Press - 2 Oct 2015 - Page #1
Shelah (and her handsome husband) made the front page of the London Free Press today! My sister was the first one to tell me, saying it was “above the fold” and that made it even bigger news! I called Shelah and she said neighbors have been coming by to congratulate her and that Gord is taking her out to dinner tonight to celebrate. What a guy! And he works for the police service! As it turns out, both Gord and Shelah are doing something great for the city.

Here is a picture of Gord and Shelah celebrating! They chose to order in and be cozy!!


The Winning Idea for London

Congratulations to Shelah Brook, my final choice for London Hometown Hero! I just called to give her the news that her winning idea of a new, state-of-the-art playground in Springbank Park had been chosen and she was so excited… but then I am too.

in London, Ont. on Thursday October 1, 2015. Craig Glover/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network

in London, Ont. on Thursday October 1, 2015. Craig Glover/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network

Her husband, Gord, helped set up my surprise call. In her application Shelah said, “Springbank Park has attracted visitors from all over the city for generations,” adding that a new playground would become the centerpiece attraction it should be.

Shelah is a home daycare provider and pilates instructor and says she knows the importance of play for both children and adults. She requested $100,000 (which will be $130,000 CAD) for an accessible playground that will bring joy and fun to all children and their families.

Shelah is a married mother of 5 adult children and her husband works for the City of London Police Service. They have lived in London for 30 years.

This choice for a new playground satisfies many of the criteria I was looking for. I wanted something that could be enjoyed by as many people as possible and something long lasting. This certainly qualifies. I was also influenced by the large number of people who asked for playgrounds in various parks and schools. In fact, more requests came in for new playgrounds than anything else.

I have already spoken to a London city planner and we will all be working together to design a fabulous new playground, which will likely be installed in the spring. It will be situated right where I used to play as a child on the swings and teeter-totter.

Finally, I want to thank the hundreds of Londoners who submitted their ideas and I only wish I could have done much more. These are all people with big hearts who want to help their neighbors and their city and I encourage everyone to continue looking for ways to help the London community.

The design progress and timeline of the new playground will be available here in my blog for anyone wanting to follow along. I hope to have some drawings and photos soon. Congratulations again, Shelah!

To see the London Free Press feature, click here.

To see the CTV News feature, click here.

London Hometown Hero

LondonHometownHero_ButtonLondon, Ontario is my hometown and I’ve committed $130,000 to do something big for the city where I grew up. I’ve asked Londoners to submit ideas on how we can best spend the money to benefit the London community and someone will soon be chosen as a London hometown hero. Check in here for updates…

UPDATE: Oct. 1st


Congratulations to Shelah Brook, my final choice for London Hometown Hero! I just called to give her the news that her winning idea of a new, state-of-the-art playground in Springbank Park had been chosen and she was so excited… but then I am too. (click here for more)

UPDATE: Sept. 24th 

I’m getting ready to announce the winner in one week! It’s going to happen on October 1st. That’s earlier than expected but why wait? Submissions started coming in more than five weeks ago and have been narrowed down and narrowed down and now it’s finally just a handful that are being considered.

I’m so excited I can hardly sleep! One more week!

UPDATE: Sept. 19th 

There are a lot of good, caring people in London. Hundreds of people submitted so many great ideas and showed that they want to help their community in a big way. As excited as I am to be able to choose and provide something great for the city, I will also be sad that I can’t do more. I hope everyone understands that this will not be an easy choice and if your idea is not selected I hope you will all continue to look for ways to help others.

For anyone interested, here is some information about the submissions:

  • The age range of those applying was from teens to 90s.
  • The occupations ranged from retired, stay-at-home mom, teacher, student, homeless, business owner, professor, health care worker, doctor, dentist, pharmacist, optometrist, scientist, psychologist, bus driver, volunteer, even a sewer inspector.
  • Below were some of the most common requests in order of popularity:

Playgrounds in parks and schools

Help for the homeless

Tree planting

Community gardens


Transitional housing

Help for seniors

Upgrade Storybook Gardens

Healthy food for the underprivileged

Thames River projects

…and many, many more…

Please check back for updates as the process of selection is underway.

UPDATE: Sept. 15th (5:00 pm PST)

The application process is officially closed. Stay tuned…

UPDATE: Sept. 15th (10:00 am PST)

Today is the last day for any ideas on how to spend a bunch of money in London. We will be closing down the suggestion form at 5:00 pm today California time (8:00 pm in London). Please keep in mind that I will not be writing a check. The ideas need to be for tangible things that can be purchased. In my next update I will share some details about the ideas that have been submitted.

UPDATE: Sept. 8th

There is one week left for any suggestions out there. Hundreds have come in so far and although it’s great to see all the ideas that will benefit London, only one will be chosen and I hope the people whose ideas are not chosen will understand and not feel slighted. This will not be an easy decision but I can hardly wait to move forward. The deadline for suggestions is September 15th!

UPDATE: Aug. 25th

Well this is embarrassing. When asked last week if my gift was in Canadian funds I had to think for a second and thought, “well of course it’s Canadian funds – it’s being spent in Canada.” I had no idea that the exchange rate was historically low. In fact the last time I remember, the U.S. dollar was worth more in Canada. Maybe if I kept up with financial news I would have known that but not me… I’m too busy baking cookies!

So I humbly announced today that the gift was calculated in my mind in U.S. funds and wow! $100 grand U.S. is worth $130 grand in Canada! Not a problem. But the headline in the local paper gave me pause (“Jones adjusts hero award to loonie rate”) until I remembered that a loony is a Canadian dollar. Whew!

UPDATE: Aug. 18th – 9:00 p.m.

It’s 9:00 p.m. and I’m exhausted. Getting the word out took most of the day and so far it seems to be working. Ideas have been coming in all day. It’s times like this that social media is at its finest. I was interviewed by the London Free Press for a story to run tomorrow, and about 30 minutes later, the story was online. Back in the day, we had to wait until the next morning to read the paper.

Thank you for all your suggestions so far and it’s so good to see how many people are passionate about helping others. A reminder that my foundation will not make cash donations. This project needs to be something tangible so we can all see exactly where the money is being spent. I know no greater joy than giving to others and because this is my hometown, I am that much more joyful and waiting for each idea with great anticipation.

Pot holder / Bikini

Cooking is more fun when you have great toys to play with, like colorful bowls and kitchen tools. I even found a hot pink spatula last week but colorful pot holders are nowhere to be found — except in my kitchen. Because I made them. I went to Jo-Ann fabrics, got 1/4 yard each of quilted fabrics, some binding and made my own. Each fabric has a different design on the back. Aren’t they beautiful?

Here are my pot holders…

IMG_6263 copy

Here are the backs…

IMG_6267 copy

Here’s how I made them: There was no pattern to so I just cut the fabric into 7 by 8-inch shapes and rounded the corners. I used two thicknesses per pot holder so before adding the binding, I first connected the pieces together to keep them flat. I did that by sewing two seams – each one diagonal from corner to corner. Then I used Double Fold Bias Tape (extra wide) for the edge. I used an old existing pot holder to see how to secure the “loop.”

A safety note: When I baked a cake at 350 degrees and used my new pot holder to remove the pan, a little heat came through by the time I put the pan on a rack so when I make more, I plan to use 4 thicknesses instead of just two and I suggest that if anyone makes them, to make them thicker or just use them as decoration. Next time I plan to use some leftover plain quilted fabric for my extra filler and save my fancy fabric for the outside.

Hey, with those colors I could turn these pot holders into a bikini. All I need is some colorful string and voila! Coverage for the beach! Of course, men would have it easier. All they need is an oven mitt.

The Tomato Fiasco

Remember that crazy tomato plant that just popped up 3 years ago, uninvited, in my rose garden? The one that produced over 8,000 delicious big cherry tomatoes? Well it came back this year and was going along beautifully, and quickly. I could tell it was going to be huge.


I even got a few sweet, delicious, red, vine-ripened, organic tomatoes… until THEY showed up.


The nasty squirrels started coming by every day and they and ate every red tomato – not only that – they ate the green ones too so there was no chance of any tomatoes for us. This was a lot of squirrels. They brought their families, probably renting  motorhomes and minivans to bus everybody in. The battle was no longer worth fighting. It was time to end it, like a bad breakup. If I can’t have you, nobody will. About 3 weeks ago, I went out at night and took out the plant, including the roots so it could never come back.

The next morning, the squirrels were pissed, running around like the world was going to end.


They even came up to the window to express their anger, knowing I had just ruined their entire summer. Too bad, you mangy, rat-faced, no-good, low-life, beady-eyed, scum-sucking, tomato-stealing squirrels  because the tomato plant is gone. And don’t come looking for it again because it’s never coming back.

That was 3 weeks ago. Look what I found this morning.


Twenty-three tomato plants just popped up in 3 different locations. What now?????

A pie pan, a spoon, and a gun


I was making dinner tonight around 6:00 and heard a bunch of coyotes howling outside. So what’s new, right? I went out to make sure they weren’t in the yard again and it sounded like they were behind the next door neighbor’s house. I went back to my broiled salmon with rice and broccoli.

We have a tradition here that we walk every evening after dinner and we do it in the back yard. It’s a big yard and we have a path we use for our regular 20-minute after-dinner walk. After dinner we were getting ready to head outside when I saw this coyote on the hill behind our house. He was walking past, stopped to stare me down, and kept going.

It was time for our walk. We’ve both agreed that we will never use excuses not to walk after dinner and today was not going to be an exception. No excuses. That doesn’t mean no fear. I’m still haunted by the dozen or so coyotes that invaded our back yard a few weeks ago. We needed to feel safe with something that makes noise. The neighbors use an air horn to combat the coyotes but we don’t have one. So Denis got a metal pie pan and a wooden spoon to bang it with.

That was okay for one or two coyotes but what if the whole troop comes back? I got my gun. I put it in my pocket just in case and we went walking… with a pie pan, a spoon, and a gun. It’s just life in California.

Happy Mother’s Day

00390028My mother’s  name was Sophie. She was a pretty woman who liked music, played the guitar, and had a big collection of albums. Her favorite singer was Jerry Vale.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms.