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Photo Project: Creating a Family Recipe Book

Here is a great project for these Corona Virus times, or really anytime. This book preserves recipes that might get lost, creates a memory book, and is a legacy item that will be enjoyed by generations.

Marietta Doyle, my mother-in-law AKA Grammy, is known for her cookies.

She has baked thousands in her lifetime.

She collected and adapted various recipes over the years not only from her Czech heritage but from the side of a cereal box (my husband's childhood, right there). When we lived in Vancouver her almond cookies arrived by mail. Our kids loved getting her brownies straight out of the freezer. We all love Grammy’s cookies!

When Marietta and Frank moved to a retirement home, I was gifted her recipe collection since she no longer cooks or bakes.

I started thinking about the best way to pass these recipes along. Once the idea simplified into creating a cookie book, everything began to take it’s sweet shape. 

Marietta’s Cookie Book was born. 

It is filled with her favourite cookie recipes, with photos of both the recipes, the cookies, and family. The book has made it easy for us to bake her recipes and carry on the cookie tradition, and each of the kids, and our extended family now has a copy.

Do you want to try it? Here are the steps, and mis-steps, I had making this book in hopes that it might help you out.

Here is what I did:

1. TAKE PICTURES OF THE RECIPES. Rather than retype the recipes, I chose to photograph them, including the handwritten notes, and suggestions.  Isn't this the best?! For the recipe photos I used my iPhone.

2. MAKE THE COOKIES AND DOCUMENT IT: My husband and I made six types of cookies. I took pictures of the process, the ingredients, and the cookies. This was time consuming and eye-opening. We got distracted and had to re-do a couple of recipes. On the other hand, the cookies tasted delicious. Pictured here the M & M Cookie dough and below the Chocolate Pixies.

Edit the photos. I would recommend not cropping anything too tightly as you may need the extra space around the edges to make it fit properly when you insert it into the program.

3. GATHER FAMILY PHOTOS: I found some pictures of Marietta to put throughout the book, and also one of the whole extended family for the last page.

4. TAKE A PHOTO TO USE FOR THE COVER: So many ideas. ... I put the cookies in the shape of an M on a black foamboard, and added a gerbera (one of Marietta's favourite flowers) for fun. The possibilities are endless. You don't need a fancy camera, just your imagination. You can add the title when you start to layout the book.

5. FIND A COMPANY TO SELF PUBLISH: I searched around and ended up using Shutterfly. It had the best balance of options, quality, and cost as far as I could tell. Slightly annoying though was Shutterfly hid a lot of costs to the very end; for example removing their logo cost US$5. I left the logo in as the price was starting to mount. If I was doing it again, I would suggest using an in-country company to avoid duty charges.

One thing I really liked was the option for lie-flat pages.

6. INSERT THE PHOTOS/RECIPES AND WRITE AN INTRODUCTION: Once you have the program selected, you need to play around, and insert the photos and recipes. It takes time to get the pages right, and in an order that makes sense. Some key recipes deserved a whole two page spread, and others that I put three to a page.

When you are laying them out, remember to lead the eye into the book, not away.

7. PROOFREAD IT: When the book was in it's final stages, I had my husband and daughter proofread it. It got the thumbs up. I read it again.

8. SEND AWAY FOR ONE COPY: When the book arrived it was very exciting to see the vision turn into reality. Even though I was thrilled with how it looked, I could see a few changes I would like to make. For example, I increased the size of one recipe, and re-wrote part of the introduction, and re-named it Marietta's Cookies from Grammy's Cookie Recipes. That first one will be our copy. 

9. ORDER A COPY FOR EACH MEMBER OF THE FAMILY:  It’s not cheap. This one ended up costing about CDN$70 per book. Fewer pages would have been less expensive but I figured ~ legacy item ~ and went for it. Kids and grandkids all got the cookie book, plus of course my mother-in-law and father-in-law.

10. REALIZE I OMITTED A RECIPE: Oops. It might have been a good idea to leave a few blank pages just in case.

11. HAVE CHRISTMAS/BIRTHDAY/MOTHERS DAY OR WHATEVER SPECIAL OCCASION YOU ARE AIMING FOR, ALL WRAPPED UP AND READY TO GO: The Doyle side of the family Christmas was done by November. This was a first. And it felt good!

12. ENJOY THE JOY: My mother-in-law was thrilled, there were many tears of happiness, and we all have a recipe book to continue the family cookie baking tradition.

Are you going to try something similar? Ask any questions, send photos. Let me know how it goes!

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