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     Preserving Your Treasured Family Recipes

Recipes are part of a family's HERITAGE. Every family has favorite recipes that have been passed from generation to generation. Some are handwritten on recipe cards, and others are tucked away in old, worn cookbooks that are slowly falling apart. These treasures won't last ever, and they should be preserved for future generations. One way to make sure these recipes live on is to put together a collection of your own family's RECIPES.

Computers have made it very easy for people to accomplish this task -- and the work isn't all that hard. Your cookbook could be as simple as 8.5" x 11" pages hole-punched and tied together with yarn. There is some kind of APPEAL in the look and feel of a handmade cookbook. Recipes lovingly compiled by a close friend or relative make a very special gift. So let's start by choosing a FORMAT.

You can set up your computer word processing program to subdivide your pages into two columns, essentially allowing you to view two 4.25" x 5.5" pages at a time. (You also need to set your page orientation to "landscape.") When you print out the pages, you can cut them in half with a paper cutter and have the pages BOUND together with a plastic comb binder. Office supply stores like Office Depot will do this for you for a very reasonable price. I have done many of these cookbooks and usually use colored card stock for the cover. One 8.5" x 11" page of card stock cut in half creates the front and back covers. To protect the covers, you can have them LAMINATED, or I have also applied clear contact paper to the card stock before cutting it in half. This works great!

You can also create recipe "booklets" by subdividing your pages in your word processing program, and then instead of cutting them in half, lay the pages on top of the full sheet of card stock and then fold the pages in half, creating a booklet. You can buy fairly inexpensive staplers that will reach far enough to STAPLE the center of the booklet, or you can pay someone else do it for you.

Your cookbook could be as simple as handwriting or typing your recipes on regular 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper and punching holes in them to slip into a three-ring binder. A variation of this idea is to use an inexpensive REPORT cover to protect your pages. I've used report covers with a clear plastic front to show off the artwork on the title page of the cookbook. If you have access to a COLOR printer, you can make a beautiful full-color title page or cover for your cookbook. If you can't use a color printer, black and white can look very nice also.

If you want to spend a little more time and really PERSONALIZE your recipes for a special person, you might consider putting together a box of recipe cards. You can buy pre- decorated recipe cards, all ready for you to add your favorite recipes, or you can always use plain index cards. Whether you take the time to decorate them or not is completely up to you. You can spend as little or as much money as you wish on a recipe box for your finished cards. My favorite recipe box is made of oak and is very simple looking and sturdy. You might also consider buying or creating your own inexpensive dividers to separate different recipe categories.

Your cookbook of favorite family recipes is only limited to your imagination. I have seen cookbooks of all shapes and sizes, many with hand-drawn pictures in them. The more you personalize them the better. Make sure to include who you got the recipes FROM. I have always loved my aunt's wonderful collection of jello salads -- especially the ones with lots of fruit, cottage cheese, and whipped cream! I love looking through my recipe cards and going back to those jello salad recipes time and time again, especially the recipe cards on which she wrote the recipes by hand. I once saw a cookbook that had copies of handwritten letters and recipe cards photocopied onto the back cover of the cookbook -- it was very original and definitely a nice touch. One cookbook I did for my family also had a DEDICATION page in it that listed all of the people whose recipes were included in the cookbook. It was especially neat because it included my family as well as my husband's.

Family cookbooks make great PRESENTS for friends and family members. Because you can photocopy them as you need them, they are also very inexpensive. They can be given for all different occasions, including Mother's Day, weddings, graduations, birthdays, and Christmas, just to name a few. Your family will treasure them. When children grow up and move AWAY from home, many times their favorite recipes don't leave home with them. What a precious gift, to put together your family's time-tested recipes for them to take with them as they begin their new lives and have families of their own to cook for.

If your family doesn't have a collection of favorite recipes, it's not too late to start your own collection! When I was first married I struggled to find recipes our family enjoyed. When I did find recipes we prepared time and time again, I had no way to ORGANIZE my growing collection. That's when I remembered my mother's own large collection that was tucked away in a drawer in her kitchen. They hadn't been touched in years! And my husband's grandmother also finally shared all of her favorite family recipes with me. That's when I realized I had to start a new tradition in our family and start our own family's recipe collection. COMBINING my family's recipes with my husband's, we now have a very comprehensive collection of treasured family recipes to share with future generations. It's never too late to start your own!


Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who is the founder of Creative Homemaking -- a website for recipes, tips to organize your home, home decorating, crafts, and frugal living at www.creativehomemaking.com or contact her at .

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