It’s March 2015. I’ve spent the year so far doing some long term subbing in the suburbs as I ease back into education. I don’t remember exactly why, but that year I chose to not go on my family vacation to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Probably because Charlie (boyfriend then, husband now) wasn’t going and I didn’t want to spend an entire week without him. Yes, yes- that young love! Haha! I love my hubs all the same, but we are very independent people and love having our own time and space apart. But four years ago I was just moving back from living in Miami, Florida for half the year and the long distance relationship had taken its toll on us.
Anyways- I had a better idea of how I wanted to spend my Spring Break! I wanted to spend it updating my family cookbook with my Gram (aka MJ for Mary Jean). She had put together a cookbook back in 1988 or so. Being Irish Catholics, we have a very large family. (So blessed and I hope to continue the tradition of having a big family, too!) Thanksgiving at my Gram’s would consist of 100+ family members. My Gram has 8 children. Her two sisters each had many as well. Then all of those children had many children…. See how we get to 100+? Year after year we’ve gotten together. Gram’s for Thanksgiving, Great Aunt Louise’s for Easter, and Great Aunt Marge’s for random gatherings in between.
Each celebration consisted of similar dishes brought by the same people each time. Many of which come from the family cookbook. Since the original one, new family favorites have surfaced and recipes have been altered. My Gram of course had made special notes in her own copy. That’s why we needed to update it!
Gram and I first when through the original cookbook to decide which recipes stayed and which recipes to omit. Then we found the recipe cards to some of the new family favorites. I started typing each recipe into the online program and made sure to include the special notes and updates my Gram recorded in her copy. That week I got MOST of the recipes done, but that was really just a kick start.
Unfortunately, a few months later Gram’s health declined quickly. She had been on oxygen for over a year, but aside from that all was well. It blindsided all of us. I spent most of that summer by her side. All my uncles had younger kids to care for and jobs to maintain. I felt fortunate to get to spend so much time with her and help care for her. Working on the cookbook during that time made me feel strange, sad, and too emotional.
That fall I landed a full time teaching job in Woodridge teaching 1st grade. I had much less time on my hands versus the long term subbing I had been doing the year prior. By October she passed away, and as I grieved I had mixed feelings about the cookbook. By December I became engaged and wedding planning with a new job consumed me. The following year I moved schools and taught a new grade level. By the end of that school year I decided to go back and get my masters. The following year I jumped down to teaching 2nd grade (my favorite!) while obtaining my masters. As you can see- there’s always something else that can get in the way of a big project. Well ya, and then Charlie and I got pregnant and now we have a newborn!
I failed to mention early- when my Gram and I decided to update the cookbook, we were going to make a big change! We (mostly I) wanted to add family memories. There was another big family in our area. They also had a cookbook, which I had seen. On every page the bottom had a typed memory from one of the family members. Back in March Gram and I had sent out an email blast letting the family know of this request…. This is the part that I dragged out. I’ve had all the recipes typed out for years. It took some family members longer than others. Then some didn’t get around to it until after Gram passed, which made it even hard for them to write. I wasn’t going to hound any family member to write their memory quickly after Gram passed. I have people time. And as much as I loved reading all the memories that came in, it was hard to type them out, too.
For four years, I have written “cookbook” on most of my to-do lists. Today I paid the deposit for 150 cookbooks. This is the best thing I’ve ever checked off my to-do list.