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The Big Day

It has been 365 days of anticipation, months of planning and weeks of hands on preparation. After all the list making, hard core full combat shopping and the seemingly endless office and neighborhood parties Thursday is the big day itself.

And come Thursday morning if you aren’t thoroughly exhausted to the point of not being able to remember if it’s Christmas 2008 or Christmas 1992 then you are either totally engrossed in your shiny new Barbie doll with a candy cane stuck to the seat of your fuzzy pajamas or you have been genetically altered for optimal endurance under prolonged hazardous conditions.

Christmas morning is usually an event that I have trouble recalling clearly. Like flash backs for a war veteran, I can usually remember bits and pieces. Hazy images of mountains of crumpled wrapping paper and discarded ribbons and bows, squeaks and squeals from the children and the overwhelming feeling that there isn’t enough fresh coffee in the universe is about all I can recollect.

The only way I can keep track of events from year to year is to flip through the pictures that show the absolute joy and wonder that can be brought about by a Batman action figure complete with working Bat-a-rang and the sheer delight that comes from a doll that wets itself.

All of our family pictures of Christmas morning have one thing in common, the utter lack of photographic evidence that I exist. This is by design. As I trog through any given Christmas morning, I always make sure that any and all available cameras are either hidden in a safety deposit box or are on my person at all times.

No sane person wants the future generations to look back through family photo albums and wonder who started the tradition of allowing a half crazed homeless woman to join the family under the tree.

I can hear it now:

“No dear, that isn’t a bag lady. That’s just what Grandma looked like after all the shopping, baking and keeping us from finding where she had hid the presents.”

“THAT’S Grandma! But she doesn’t have gray hair now.”

“Well sweetie, Grandma has a great hair dresser now, but her hair wasn’t gray back then either. That’s flour, she’d stay up all night baking up a storm so that we could have hot croissants for Christmas breakfast, a bunch of cookies to eat all afternoon and fresh rolls for Christmas dinner with one of her special cakes for dessert.”

“Grandma did all of that? But I thought she didn’t celebrate Christmas.”

“Well sugar, she did until one year your uncle asked why we couldn’t have Velveeta Shells and Cheese instead of homemade macaroni and cheese for Christmas dinner. Grandma kind of lost it and shouted something about us sucking the marrow from her bones. And that’s why we always get a post card from a cruise ship from Grandma every Christmas.”

Oh it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the work it takes to pull of that picture perfect Christmas Day. This year I’m going to take a page out of my girl friend’s play book. An accomplished cook and general all around super-mom herself, when I asked her what fabulousness she was preparing to bestow upon her family for Christmas she explained how she runs the big day at her house.

All the left over sweet treats and goodies, from fruit cake to fudge, that have worked their way into the house are set out on a large platter. Sister Shubert is called upon for her rolls and they are paired with the left over Honey Baked Ham from the Christmas party for ham and honey mustard finger sandwiches. Her world renowned crudités tray is whipped up, complete with pickled okra and dilly beans and the only thing she truly makes from scratch is her cheese ball. Everything is set out for one and all to graze upon while she does her best to recuperate from making it there all the way from Thanksgiving. I believe she deserves the Nobel Prize for coming up with that one.

The following is her cheese ball recipe that she adapted from Fannie Farmer. Knowing that I’m not a hot and spicy kind of girl, she warned me that while the Tabasco doesn’t impart too much spicy kick, omitting it leaves the flavor on the flat side.

MALIA’S CHEESE BALL

8 ounces cream cheese

2-3 ounces bleu cheese

8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 clove garlic, finely minced

Dash Tabasco sauce

1/3 cup finely chopped butter toasted pecans

1 teaspoon dried parsley

Allow all of the cheeses to come to room temperature. Cream the bleu and cream cheeses together. With a wooden spoon, stir in cheddar, garlic and Tabasco. Shape into a ball. Toss the pecans with the parsley and roll the cheese ball in the pecan mixture. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Elizabeth Ogden is a syndicated columnist and instructor in the culinary arts and can be contacted at emagogden@yahooo.com .