unnamed[1]When my sister-in-law Teresa saw my face after I opened my Christmas gifts, she knew she’d made a slam dunk. In my hands were three books that were, essentially, going to make me a better person.

The anchor of the three is a binder containing plastic sleeves into which you insert recipe cards. The goal of these cards is to create a go-to place that documents how to make your fave dishes.

My mom had one of these and, throughout my childhood, I loved paging through it. Actually, flipping through it more like, as her plastic recipe cardholders were pasted in two descending columns inside the book. I loved looking at the spills and stains on the cards, the different handwriting belonging to people who had given my mom their recipes. There was something remarkably comforting about the book, this bible of sorts, and not just because its pleather cover was 1970s brown.

Now I had my own book and it was likewise soothing. The front cover shows a picture of vintage cutlery and the cardboard is puffy, almost like it has been stuffed with cotton.

But it isn’t all about looks. This binder also has dividers so the recipe cards can be organized in a thoughtful way — appetizers, soups/salads, sauces/dressings, meat, seafood, you get the picture. Then, on the inside of the front and back covers is a list of cooking conversions, such as ½ cup equals 8 tablespoons. THEN, it has a bookmark shaped like a spoon that allows you to keep your place on your recipe page.

BUT it didn’t stop there. Matching the binder — yes, god bless you, they match — is a coupon keeper. You open it and on one side there is a mini accordion file folder (complete with stickers to designate each partition — canned items, cleaning supplies, paper goods) in which you place your coupons. Then on the other side is a notepad to write down what you need at the grocery. THEN in the center is a beautiful elastic loop to house a pen.

AND THEN there is another little book, which closes primly thanks to a magnetic tab, inside of which is a nest of matching sticky notes so you can flag your recipes when you find the ones you want to make.

It was these stickies that nearly brought me to tears.

Probably, Teresa had no idea this was going to happen, but these books, the detail of their thoughtful organization, struck a chord in me so deep it plucked at the strands of my DNA.

Because I feel like in a past life, I might have been a secretary. A really killer one, like maybe to a CEO or the queen or Harry Truman and I was ruthlessly organized. I had expert typing skills and I never made mistakes. I placed stamps on the envelope in the upper right hand corner and they were straight, man, straight. I had folders and stickers, highlighters and pens, rulers and hole reinforcements, and a wicked filing system so neat and cohesive, it was a thing of beauty.

I feel this past life pressing on me when I am presented with lovely organizational tools like the ones Teresa gave to me. My instinct is to set them up RIGHT AWAY so I can IMMEDIATELY start being a better wife, stepmom, friend, daughter, sister and home economist.

When I’d finally absorbed how perfect this set was, I felt compelled to turn the books over to see where they came from. Manufactured by C.R. Gibson in Nashville, TN. Made in China.

I immediately had an image of this Catherine Ruth Gibson: grey bun, pressed apron, pencil behind her ear, short nails painted with nude polish, can make a pound cake in under 10 minutes and for less than $3. This Mrs. Gibson, she knows how to do it. And of course she is from the southeast of this country, a good Tennessee woman who knows how to make a cake walk WALK. And because she knows good savings when she sees them, yes indeed sister, made in China.

And now her perfect products were mine to enjoy. So far, I’ve saved $12.55 in coupons and haven’t ONCE forgotten to buy something at Kroger. I’ve flagged five recipes in my cookbooks with my stickies, and I’ve written down the recipe for crème fraiche in my recipe binder. Slowly but surely, life is turning around for Tara Paule Kaprowy. No more hot mess. Instead, Mrs. Gibson’s cool order.

So thanks, Teresa, for a wonderful gift. You couldn’t have possibly known how much I’m enjoying it — until now.

4 thoughts on “The thrill of an organized life

  1. Thank you for a look back to being in the kitchen and cooking with my mom. Using her folder of cards and hand written recipes from family and friends. I have many of them now that she has gone. They were divided up between the 4 daughters and we text each other often asking ” who has that recipe for Mom’s apricot squares”?? We all reply and reconnect with each other and with our memories from 50 years ago.
    Thank you for saying what we think and feel but just can’t put it together like you can and do. Keep it up. I’m on your wave length.

  2. “Accidentally” read your recent column in the Sentinel Echo which was left in my classroom at Green River Correctional Complex in Central City KY. I had never seen this newspaper before and I thoroughly enjoyed your column. I teach GED and Literacy classes at this all male prison and encourage the men to bring reading material to class which is interesting to them. I have a student from Bell County, hence, the paper! My question is,where did your sister-in-law find the organizer? In seems like an answer to prayer. Thank you for writing, I will keep reading!

    1. Katen, I’m glad the newspaper made its way to you. My sister-in-law bought the organizer at Joseph-Beth in Lexington. I hope this helps! Thank you for your comment. Sounds like you have a fascinating job.

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