What’s For Dinner? Sigh.

posted in: Design Life, Random 12

The dear husband is getting a well-deserved break from blog duties this month. I can’t report on 3D special effects or innovative product design, but in time for Halloween, you can follow the horrors of my creatively obsessive synapses tackling the minutiae in my life. Specifically, organizing recipes. Are you riveted? Read on…

I had to admit defeat. I was buried in recipes. It was time yet again to tackle organizing them. But, how to do it? Have my failures gained me any wisdom? Let’s see…

The first iteration I attempted was an analog notion to scan recipes I want to keep, print them out, put them in sheet protectors and keep them in binders. Lesson learned: It’s the Cat in the Hat solution–now I have cookbooks AND binders proliferating. Also, the process is too cumbersome, so that once I made the first pass, nothing was added.

Which brought me to organizational effort #2: a digital folder of PDFs. I learned from my Luddite approach to not print out the recipes, but just keep them on my computer and upload to Dropbox as needed where I can view them on my iPad in the kitchen. Lesson learned: I’m not going to sift through a list of thousands of file names to pick recipes. I need better sorting ability, search capability and pictures. I need access to all recipes, not upload to Dropbox as needed.

What I decided would help is determining the criteria for a system. Here is what I wanted:

1. Free!: I don’t mind paying for software, but there is a trend toward annual fees for access that I am not happy about. And I suspect that any app that is basically a database and requires many hours of data entry on the part of the user, will logically turn around and demand larger and larger annual fees, upgrade prices and/or in-app purchases. It’s your typical shakedown–“I’d hate to see anything happen to those pretty recipes. You might want to protect them.”

2. The cloud: I want to access data wherever I am and on any device.

3. OCR: Yup, OCR for the OCD. It’s the only way to be able to power a comprehensive search unless you type the recipes in the app. I did exhaustive research on recipe apps (surprised?) and found there were quite a few that actually required you to TYPE THEM IN! Are you kidding me? Who would do that?

4. Longevity: I saw some good looking apps with shiny faced young developers that were proud of their crowdfunding and all I could think was “this won’t be around next year”.

5. Non-platform specific: I’d like to have access on my phone while I’m shopping, my iPad while cooking, and my computer while planning.

6. PDF reader: As my recipes are all saved as PDFs, I’d like to simply upload them and not have to reconfigure everything.

I dismissed a lot of options. All the recipe apps had problems: not free, not universal (generally, had to be loaded on devices and only available to specific platforms), too much effort to load and customize, and no guarantee of longevity. Many people use Pinterest and it has its appeal: free, recipes online typically can be saved to Pinterest with a click and they feature pictures. But, and I’m a bit amazed by this, they don’t have much search capability within a board and though it’s easy to save something from an online source, to upload your own items requires a jpg format for the picture and typing everything else. Nope. Not happening. I examined various databases and spreadsheets. None met my criteria. I was afraid this magical solution simply couldn’t be found.

I finally consulted with my brilliant friend Ann, who simply said, “have you tried —“.

To be continued…

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Maren Giobbi enjoys a huge variety of creative projects (including playing the accordion) and has been Bill's creative partner and partner in life for 21 very happy years.
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12 Responses

  1. Jeffrey Hall

    Maren, you are awesome. Just enough structure and vulnerability in your thought process…. and leave the reader hanging to ensure us coming back for the next blog post. I am so glad Bill has you to hang out with.

    • bgob1

      Thanks Jeff-

      We need to hang out with you as well! Somehow Gresham to Forest Grove has become perceived as an epic journey. Let us know when you have your next art show in Beaverton or thereabouts. We miss you! xo Maren

  2. Ann

    You know how in the “questions” sections of dating sites they always ask, “is there at least one nude pic of you on the internet?” (ok, so you may not know that, but it’s true). This is my version. “Is there at least one site on the internet where you are called ‘brilliant’?” Why, yes! Yes there is!!!

    • bgob1

      Whoa! Interesting comparison! Though you haven’t answered the first question, I see. And why do they ask that? Now I have a lot of questions. We need to talk.

      This is a truly warranted characterization. Wouldn’t it be lovely now to get that question in a job interview (meaning the 2nd one–the first one would be just plain creepy)? xo m

  3. Gayle

    I don’t cook. So that eliminates any input from me! But I do love your criteria and thought process, which I’ve applied to organizing photos and other files I want access to in a variety of ways. Always a puzzle. I’m impressed with your commitment and look forward to your solution. I want you to easily find that recipe for chocolate caramel cake when I need to eat it!

    • bgob1

      Is that salted caramel brownies of which you speak? My fave! You being the master organizer of the family, I’m flattered you endorse my thought process. I really hope it works this time….

  4. Scott

    This is like a Buck Rogers cliffhanger! How long are you going to make us wait?
    Cheers, Scott

    • bgob1

      I’m starting to think we should serialize all our blog posts! I’ll try to wrap it up in a couple weeks. It will take that long to come up with something interesting to say. The pressure’s on! xo Maren

      P.S. Love to Susan. Sorry she’s having to deal with horrible back issues. We’re feeling for her!

  5. Elisa

    To Be Continued??!! You’re making us wait!??! haha. Too funny!

    Just recently I went through hundreds of recipes I’ve obsessively collected over the years- in paper form- tossed out the ones I’ll never make and put them all in an accordion file, with labels. Alas, cannot access via computer, but they all sit in one neat packet in our kitchen now! If I need an ingredient list, will take a picture of recipe before heading to grocer. Problem solved for me, anyway. But somehow I can tell this is not what you’re after…. ;)))

    • bgob1

      Hey E–

      I’m making you wait because it was just getting too long. It’s actually not very exciting–I didn’t expect people to actually read this!

      You have that inherent Giobbi organizing capability. Nice system! I’ve got a lot of sheet protectors if you need any. I do like having all recipes available on the phone though, so I can change up things at the store if I can’t find a critical ingredient or there’s an amazing sale on something yummy.

      Thanks for reading my nonsense! xo m

  6. Steven

    Hi, Maren! I put my recipes in OneNote. I organized them by category (main, side, sauce) in a special section called Recipes – Favorite. I also have a section called Recipes – Try: my holding spot for recipes that l find as I stumble through the Internet. When I want to cook something, I quickly scan my recipes because they’re all there in one place. I can also quickly copy a recipe to a OneNote page I call Shopping, where I can see what ingredients I may need to buy.

    I’m excited to read the next installment to see what solution you found!

    • bgob1

      Hi Steve! It’s been a while! I know you must have a fabulous collection from the great food we’ve had at your parties! I tried a variety of the note-type apps and there’s a lot to recommend them. In the past (before Cloud services) my favorite was SOHO Notes now discontinued. My second favorite was Wunderlist which Microsoft subsequently bought and snuffed in favor of OneNote. Grrr. I did give OneNote a try. It was OneNote 2016 at that time. I liked it–it’s a nice interface. It didn’t give me universal access, but now has been replaced with a cloud version which means you’ve found a great solution. I still have a suspicion that Microsoft will be working it into an annual fee or only available with Office kind of deal. They do a lot of reconfiguring all the time to maximize revenue. Even the amount of free storage on their OneDrive fluctuates quite a bit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_file_hosting_services

      Bottom line: Great solution–I just don’t trust Microsoft. xo Maren