By Andy Rooney

We all look for that perfect day when we have enough to do but not too much. There's a fine line and we usually cross it. At this time of year, most of us have so much to do that there isn't time to sit back and enjoy our holiday.

We had a cocktail party for 60 friends and family on the Friday before Christmas, but we think 75 showed up. It was good except two of our closest friends were left off the invitation list by mistake. No amount of apologizing helps in a case like that.

I made eggnog with eggs, cream and plenty of nog (I use rum and bourbon). Some people make the mistake of thinking this is a toy drink and it is not. I put nutmeg and a grater next to the punch bowl. I don't know what nutmeg is but I like what it tastes like in eggnog.

We had 15 family members for most of nine meals and grandson Justin brought his girlfriend, Gayle, which made us 16. It was our second Christmas without Margie and we don't get over missing her. I jerry-rigged a board with legs and fastened it to the end of the dining room table so it would accommodate everyone.

Food for 16 people, three meals a day for three days is a lot of food and a lot of work. Daughter Martha, the most organized of us, drew up a chart listing who was on duty for what job and stuck it on the refrigerator door but no one paid much attention to it. After the guests left the party Friday, we had two huge dishes of lasagna left. Martha had made them in advance. They were good with a salad and easy.

Emily's daughter, my granddaughter Alexis, had to get back to Washington to be at work for Fox at 6 a.m. the day after Christmas, so we decided to have our Christmas turkey dinner Saturday night so she'd be in on it. Emily brought the 27-pound turkey from a farm near Boston. Less than half of the stuffing went into the bird and the rest was baked separately in an open pan. It was better than that cooked inside the turkey.

For the first time, son Brian carved. I relinquished my role reluctantly because being the carver puts you in a special position of authority, but I conceded that he did a better job than I would have. I've done it about 50 times over the years, but still have a hard time finding where to cut the joint of the drumstick and thigh so that they break off and leave the breast easy to slice.

Ellen made the cranberry sauce and argued with Emily about whether to put slivered almonds in it. Ellen was adamant about not doing that, but I noticed that when it came to the table in the cut glass dish, there were almonds in the sauce.

There were several desserts, principal among them a dense, lemon pound cake called a "62nd Street Cake,' named after the great baker Maida Heatter, who first produced it in her shop on 62nd Street in New York. My sister, Nancy, has always made our 62nd Street Cake.

There were a lot of arguments. One ensued Christmas Eve when I insisted on grinding coffee beans instead of using the coffee in cans people had brought. Ellen's British husband, Les, was not interested in the argument. He quietly made himself "a nice cup of tea."

For Christmas dinner, we cooked a huge roast beef. I made Yorkshire pudding, which cooked in the fat after the beef had been in the pan for several hours. (Yorkshire pudding is the same recipe as popovers.) Emily peeled, then braised several pounds of pearl onions until they were brown. For dessert, we had my specialty, peppermint stick ice cream. I crush and melt in milk and cream one pound of peppermint candy canes, which produces a lovely pink mixture. I put that in my six-quart ice cream freezer for about 40 minutes and serve it in chilled dishes with slightly bitter homemade chocolate sauce.

Breakfast was hard because not everyone showed up at the same time. I made waffles one morning in a waffle iron we've had for 50 years. The kids filled the holes with maple syrup.

There are still leftovers in the refrigerator, which Les refers to with a British term as "lurkies" -- food that lurks in the 'fridge.

(This classic Andy Rooney column was originally published Dec. 31, 2005.)

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