Recipe Box

comments: 104









Many years ago, maybe ten years ago, my mom gave me her 5" x 8" wooden recipe box. It was always in our River Forest house and then when my parents moved I think that's when she gave it to me. I've used it for my big pile of smaller-sized handwritten or printed-out-and-glued-to-a-5- x-8"-index-card recipes. I've had this pile for about as long as I've had the box. Commercial recipe cards are usually 4" x 6" or even 3" x 5". I've never really understood that, because those are just way too small for me — and I even have small handwriting. My mom's card size, 5" x 8", works so much better, in my opinion. But obviously making this recipe box really work has meant rewriting pretty much all of my recipes. And I never did it. For some reason I would get the urge to do it every year around New Year's. I'd usually pull the box out and immediately sort of collapse with fatigue, just imagining all that writing. Then I'd put the box back.

I'm trying this new thing, though. I call it Do Things in Winter You Don't Do in Summer. Or sometimes I call it Take Advantage of February (Which Is Sort of Like Extra January). Or, like, yesterday I called it If You Don't Get This Done Now You Never Will So Sit Down and Write. Because if I can knit bobillions of rows of garter stitch in fingering weight yarn without batting an eye (much), I can do this.

And it's important to me. I love to cook. My recipes are precious. I make them over and over. Andy makes them over and over. Our history together is, in its own way, in this box. I hadn't really realized, until I started rewriting them (on the proper size cards), how much I would remember. The blue table with Ann and Martha on Eighth-and-a-Half Avenue in Rock Island, and no-knead bread with honey. Our first apartment's miniature kitchen in the Rozale, painted top to bottom wedding-cake white, and our little lasagnas. The shrimp crostini we made for the big Christmas party we had the first Christmas after my accident. Memories, memories — it was weird how easily they came. The places we've lived, parties we've had, friends we've fed, friends who have fed us and passed along their recipes. My favorites were childhood things I remember but rarely make (applesauce muffins, chicken and dumplings) and things I often do (Mom's sauce, my dad's chilli). I'll keep my few original recipes that are in other people's handwriting, but not in this box.

This box will be totally functional, and that's what I want. And need. I have a binder with page protectors that contains recipes I've printed off of the internet. I have a small library of my favorite cookbooks. But this box is going to contain all of our personal recipes, family recipes, and our most-used internet and cookbook recipes (I'll rewrite them onto the cards, because I can't tell you have many times I've tried to remember something I want to make and can't remember if it's in the box, or the internet binder, or a cookbook [which cookbook?], etc.).

I wrote out a list of categories: Breakfast Things; Appetizers, Drinks, and Dips; Soups and Salads; Pasta, Pizza, and Bread; Side Dishes; Main Courses; and Desserts. Then I went through some of the recent photos I've taken and resized them to fit on a 5 1/2" x 8" space (so, a little taller than the index cards), added the text, printed them on photo paper, then cut them out and took them over to Julie's to laminate them (should have known Julie would have something cool like her own laminator; we were laughing about this one time when she was absolutely incredulous that I didn't have my own sticker maker — [snort!]). Anyway, they came out just like I was hoping they would, so that was so nice.

For the past few days, every time I walk past the table I try to sit down and write a recipe. It's a big project, but actually going faster than I thought. I might be 1/3 done. It's obvious to me that I now need a laminator of my own, because I'll be laminating every single one of these, too. In my kitchen, recipes on paper get trashed. I can't tell you how many recipes I was trying to copy that I couldn't read because the ink was blurred off by water spills, or whatever. These little guys are getting protection. I've gone through three pens so far. But I kind of enjoy writing things by hand, especially when I'm taking my time. And I'm now thinking, Yeah. February! It's like an Extra January.


how lovely- your handwriting too.

Now I want a wooden box! :)

forgot to mention that my dad's family business made oats with raisins. 3 Minute Oats. seeing your images made me remember all that nostalgia for our family as well.

What a beautiful shawl! I have been having shawl envy lately...I desperately want to wear one that is identical to your own but something about fingering yarn makes me run for the hills!! I just don't have the patience. Maybe this is something I should work up to?

I too have a daunting recipe box. Love your idea of the photos. February is one of our busiest months, full of birthdays. I'm kinda wishing I had an extra January :)

I have such a soft spot for hand-written recipes. Because they say things like, "Shake it! Love it!"

And I think it's a perfect way to spend your time. I've loved seeing you doing things to take care of yourself these past few months. I think it's beautiful. xxoo

My mom has been gone for 15 years this spring. When I got married and moved out, I took her recipe box with me. The box itself wasn't nearly as nice as your mom's and is long gone. The cards themselves, however, are worth so much more - her handwriting, the frayed edges and the stains of the very ingredients marking the favourite recipes. These are the cards of my childhood dinners and desserts, parties and holidays. Someday, I want to see if I can cook/bake my way through them. (I recently posted a photo of her recipe card for Gingerbread Cake. The taste of it took me back 25 years.)

I am so totally stealing "February Is An Extra January". See, I'm not behind schedule AT ALL.

Recipes in my mom's handwriting are so precious to me. And I have my hub's grandmother's wooden recipe box, full of (guess what) 5x8 recipe cards.

And....please tell us the name of that gorgeous shawl pattern!

That is a positive way to think about February. Kind of a month to get things done. February is usually kind of a blah month for me, chilly and gray and rainy, waiting for fun stuff like gardening to begin in March. This February, however, is like an early spring. I think I've even seen some pear trees blooming. I never thought about using the bigger cards for recipe cards, but it is a great idea because the 3x5 cards are really too small. I think it's a wonderfully clever idea to use some of your photos in this way. That would also make a sweet gift, a special recipe box, maybe for newlyweds.

I'm admiring your beautiful handwriting too.

When I'm on top of things I like to make a note of when I first made a new recipe and who we ate it with. Food is love, and family history.

It is nice to think of the month this way. And isn't procrastination funny that way? We put off doing things for years and years and years and groan every time we even contemplate what a chore they'll be, and then, once we've finally begun, we're 1/3 done. This is what I remind myself every year during Tax Season. And I still put it off. :) ♥

Your post reminds me of something my mom did for me I think when I turned 13 or thereabouts. She bought a blank recipe book and passed it around to all of our family and had them write their favorite recipes in their own hand.

Now when I make my favorite family meals, I also get to see each person's handwriting and am reminded of them. It's absolutely precious to me.

Love the recipe box - and the shawl too! Any chance you have a pattern for the shawl? Would love to make one just like it!

Oh, what a big job. One of these years, I'll have to use my extra January to do the same :)

You have such nice handwriting! I wish I could get copies of all those recipe cards!

I am slowly building my collection of favourite recipes and this would be a lovely way to store them.

That's lovely! It's a wonderful way to spend some quiet time in the winter.

Your beautiful recipe box looks just like a vintage Betty Crocker recipe box I found last summer. It has a paper label on the inside lid and it's so cool. I really enjoyed this post. Your handwriting is really pretty!

I'm a long-time lurker but had to break silence to tell you how much I enjoy your occasional reference to your time at Augustana College. I didn't attend Augustana but spent a lot of time in the neighborhood. I don't live in the midwest any longer, and your memories really take me back there. Your recipe box will be well worth the effort - cherish the memories!

That's such a brilliant idea! I have several binders of recipes and if it's something that I really love it goes into the special 'family recipes' binder. Eventually, when I get enough recipes in there, I want to convert it to a printed, hard-back cook book to have on hand with photos and whatnot.

I made each of my three children a recipe binder last year for their birthdays. It held all their favorite recipes and recipes I have from family and family friends. I copy/copied a couple from grand and great grand parents so they would have a few in their original handwriting. Everything else was in my handwriting. I too need to organize my recipes better. They are scattered here, there and everywhere. Love your photos, they are comforting to look at.

~ A day without a post from Posie Gets Cozy is like a day without add sparkle to my mornings ~ thank you

How beautiful.
And I really want to know that salad dressing recipe :)

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.