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Where Are Grandma’s Recipes? Legacies Lost?

cooking prep_optThe real truth is that my grandmother never followed a designated recipe when she cooked. Devoid of any particular method, she purely cooked by taste alone.  If something was too tart, she would simply add a little more sugar to cut the flavor; if something was too sweet, she would add salt or vinegar.  She had pot luck remedies to make everything taste good.  In fact, there was no respect to measuring either. If you asked her for instructions, it would go something like this; take a “pinch” of salt, a “dash” of sugar,” or a “handful” of any other additional ingredient needed.

Aside from the fact that few people had her “petite” hands, no one in the family could ever replicate her special delicacies.  Who could accurately measure a “pinch” or a “dash?” As a European immigrant, she was old world and old school, and never had time nor the inclination to share her unorthodox techniques.  So sadly, when she eventually passed, those special culinary secrets died along with her too.

Regretfully, her children (my Mom and her 3 sisters) never wrote anything down, so all we have now are just the savory memories. We all especially miss her kufteles, a mysterious cold chopmeat patty, and her kreut strudel, some kind of garlic and cabbage treat that we all fought over.  I’m saddened about the legacies lost, a missed opportunity to pass on to the next generation. Of course, we can always try to hunt them down through a myriad of cookbooks, but I’m confident that our family favorites surely won’t be there. Or we could google a close facsimile, but even if a mouth-watering, delectable photograph pops up,  I know it won’t be grandma’s version.

Like photos, recipes bridge generations together and help tell our life stories. The sense of smell is very powerful, and they act as strong triggers to rekindle moments.  Close your eyes, and I bet you can recall a pleasant childhood memory of a family dinner and connect it with a particular scent or favorite food.  A kitchen filled with familiar aromas can be very comforting. It is the very heart of our home.  So if you are a foodie, and love your mom, grandma, aunt’s, or any family member’s special recipes, take the time to document the classics.  Organize your family recipes so that the savory memories can endure.  Write it down somewhere so you can retrieve it. Or better yet, teach your children how to cook, engage them by involving them in the process.

My beloved mother-in-law (who has since passed) was famous for her homemade gefilte fish, her signature dish.  Having only sons, her old-fashion values excluded them from the kitchen so they never paid much attention to how long she labored in this process. As daughter-in-laws, we should have.  One time, we did ask her to write it down, but it was written in the same obscure and vague way that my grandmother described, so we laughed and let it go. It was something we grew to expect at every holiday dinner and delighted in its delicious flavor.  Moreover, we were thrilled that we didn’t have to make it . Years later, when we started making our own holiday dinners, we all yearned for the revered gefilte fish. But it was too late.  Her Alzheimer’s disease had robbed her of memory to even recall who we were, albeit her favorite recipe. Now, when a holiday comes around, it pains us that we must resolve to buy gefilte fish in bottle. Shame on us.

I have a friend Candi, who is as passionate about cooking, as I am about organizing. She has an active blog; cookingwithcandi, where she shares “tried and true” recipes with friends, family, and avid followers. One of the reasons she decided to launch this site was because she wanted a place for her daughters to glean all her culinary artistry in one organized place, one stop shop, forever!  Kudos to her…now her recipes can be passed down from generation to generation for all to enjoy. Candi’s post are timely for each season, holiday, and all the days in between.  She inspire her readers to punctuate their life events with tasty food, because she understands it not only adds to the “happy,” it makes the moments memorable.  Using cooking as a fun bonding tool, you can often find Candi cooking with her grandchildren, not for them. Teachable moments at their core.

For me, huge lesson learned.  During my mom’s recent visit this past Passover holiday, I was intent on learning how to make her special chopped liver (best above the rest).  Usually, we are together side by side in the kitchen, but we are micromanaging different food preps.  But this time, I was determined to glean her masterful craft. She’s getting older and it occurred to me that the long process was getting harder for her. Back in the day, she used the old-fashioned grinder that bolted to the countertop. Having tossed that years ago, she has resorted to the painstakingly task of using my hand-held grater.  So in attempt to minimize the efforts and maximize the results, I surprised her with an electric meat grinder this year.


OMG, this mean machine was game changer, big time.  Under her tutelage, we cut down the process by hours. It yielded way more liver, eliminated the grizzle, and the interior parts cleaned like a dream.  FYI, we also decided to break it down into more manageable steps in 2 days, (we sautéed the onions and boiled the eggs the day before) so the kitchen clean-up was minimal. The experience was great; we laughed so much, made a few bloopers, and I made sure my notes would be foolproof for next year.

As for my grandmother’s special kufteles, my mother-in-law’s gefilte fish and kreplach, they are tragically a lost art we can never recover.  But at least, we shall always have chopped liver.

Have you organized your family recipes to be legacies?

Some food for thought, lol: With smart technology,  you can opt for filming “live” cooking sessions and video the recipes! Easy to follow, interactive, and personal recipes beat a store-bought cookbook any day of the week.  Would make a fabulous gift too!



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The Essential X-Factor in Sustainable Organization







I’m all about sustainability,  it is the very trademark of my business.  By definition, it means the capacity to endure. Yet we must acknowledge that in life, things change, people change.  We grow, we evolve, and so we must continually adapt our daily systems to our current needs.

Countless times, I’m reminded that establishing sustainability can only exist through maintenance, the quintessential X-factorAs a flower needs the rain, our systems need the same TLC.  There is no one trick pony, no eternal fix.

Organization needs “nurturing,” in order to sustain itself.  We must give it proper attention or it simply will not endure.

I re-visit client’s homes and realize that sometimes the systems didn’t work, not because they weren’t good, but because their “needs” had changed. Or, perhaps I didn’t hone in on their specific preference of learning styles. I could never have known that, until it failed.  Together we had implemented solutions that we thought would be fail-safe, but in fact, they could not be sustained. It worked, until it didn’t.

So we tweak, and if necessary, tweak once more.  It is more than a tedious process.  Make no mistake about it, it is a life long journey.

Typically, I begin with an elementary improvement of organization, and the client is seemingly happy.  But with time and an increased awareness, the client yearns for more. They are invigorated and inspired with the noticeable improvements.

Whether it’s a paper filing system or the transformation of their spaces, their standards have been piqued. And so their enthusiasm requires me to micro-manage further. The systems continue to improve. To witness their evolution and personal growth is often remarkable, and one that still astounds me.

Sustainability is achievable but not in a vacuum.  Be mindful that with growth, comes change.  We never stand still, we keep on moving, forever evolving, and so must our life systems.  We must maintain the systems by fine-tuning them to our distinct proclivities. Then, and only then, can sustainability  prosper.

So ask yourself if your home, office, or life organization has sustained itself. Are your systems still working for you?  Have you adapted to the changes in your lifestyle?  Evaluate.  Perhaps you’re missing the X-factor.


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The Value in Organizing Your Past

We all spend our lifetimes creating memories. We want to savor the good times and sometimes commemorate the sad ones.  Time does not stand still, and so we must understand that “this too shall pass,” doesn’t merely refer to the hardships…it means that even the happiest of times must come to an eventual end.  All the more reason to appreciate and treasure them.  Sustainable organization is key.

But it takes great effort and TLC to preserve and honor our memories.  So often, we are rushing through our lives and don’t take the time to organize the memories.  Taking digital photos is great, but how frequently do we print them out into albums?  Storing them in organized folders on your desktop is easy and accessible, but is it ever utilized?  I bet, no.  I would guess that friends, family, and even next generation, would enjoy sharing them more in a book they can all touch.

To me, it’s all about sustainable memories, and I’m going to tell you why.  My mother has always had a proclivity to organize everything, especially our family photo albums. She took great pride in creating a pictorial account of our entire family history, organized and labeled each binder in consecutive years. The albums trace the lives of my parents even prior to their marriage, and on through through their golden years.  All of our family memories are captured in those albums; countless vacations, birthday and anniversary celebrations, camp visiting days, holidays, weddings, births, bar and bat-mitzvahs of my children, are all documented.  Truly, it is storytelling at its best.  My Dad has since passed, and so I find significant comfort in glancing through these special albums with not only my Mom, but with the rest of my family.

This past winter, my brother (who resides in Italy for the past 20 years) and I, shared a short visit in Florida, where my mother now lives.  We reminisced through our childhood and had fun connecting the pieces of our past. The best part about it was that we were able to pinpoint a particular year that we wanted to revisit, and immerse ourselves in that album. We took turns picking favorite years and times of our lives. One of my my favorites is still the 1942 album where I can gaze at my Dad as a handsome young soldier.  My own children get to see a different kind of Grandpa too.  Priceless.

These photos are not strewn all over in some random box in the attic, nor separated or torn in tattered envelopes. They were honored, preserved and displayed into beautifully bound photo albums.  These will pass down for generations to come for all to enjoy. They will not be lost.

And as the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I continue the tradition of organizing our family photo albums.  I get kidded for this all the time, but everyone can always depend on me for having the latest celebration in our most recent album.

The organization of your past need not stop at photos. If you have an old collection of favorite tee shirts, there are quilting companies that will sew them all into a beautiful patchwork quilt.  What an amazing way to honor the actual fabric of your life!  You may not be able to still wear them, but you can definitely still enjoy them.  They are a part of your past that can still bring you pleasure todaySustainable.

One of my clients was struggling with letting go of her abundant collection of special cartoon logo sweaters that were just sitting on a shelf in her closet (they are now too small, and she hasn’t any daughters to pass them down to) until I suggested she create comfy blankets out of them for her sons.  She was teary-eyed at the thought of passing down this very special piece of her and being able to still enjoy them, in yet a different way.   It’s something her children will always have and can pass down to their children.  Sustainable.

Ditto to sport jerseys, medals, or any memorabilia…place them in a shadow box and frame them.  Trophies can be deconstructed and then you could just mount and display the award plaque on a velvet backdrop, with pride.

Find innovative and resourceful ways to organize your past and create sustainable memories for your family.  They will find immeasurable value in it because you’ve shown them how to cherish things you love.

Now that’s what I would call a teachable moment with great sustainability.


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