It began with a grand scheme to sell home-made marmalade and toffee, along with cheese straws for Christmas giving, but came down to earth on the side of cheese straws only.
Beth, our daughter, spread the word among friends at work, and people we know put in requests for holiday cheese straws. There was talk of designing a logo and ordering special sacks, but, in the end, cookie tins won out as proper containers.
The first mixing and baking session went well. Beth tried her hand at wielding the cheese straw gun. Her dad showed her how to keep the lines of cheese straight and narrow and when to cut and package the straws.
Then life checked in. Beth's boys had colds and coughs and she was felled by a pseudo-flu. Her father and I became on-call cooks, grating and mixing, timing baking and sliding cookie sheets in and out of the oven until we had wrist cramps.
As my Christmas "to do" list grew longer by the day and the wrapping and mailing piles threatened to take over a bed, I was still counting cheese straws and lining tins with parchment paper.
When the week before Christmas dawned and there were still orders to fill, I had a full-blown Technicolor nightmare. I woke up in a cold sweat, scared silly by the memory of a giant wedge of cheese bearing down on me while I was mired in a vat of dough, unable to move.
So much for entrepreneurial ambition!
Those tales of folks making rolls in their kitchens, selling them at church bazaars, and, finally, hitting the big time with orders from Wal-Mart, faded from memory.
By that point, my husband had developed arthritis in his hand from turning the cheese straw gun. I needed to change sheets for out-of-town family coming for Christmas and there were presents to wrap.
We wound up our culinary adventure two days before Christmas with a toast to the stamina of Baby Ruth Graddick of Americus, a woman who turned out hundreds of cheese straws for every party, christening and reception in her home town.
Well into her eighties, she got up at 4 a.m. and turned her cookie press until her hands begged for mercy. Then she stretched out on the sofa for a nap, got up and baked some more.
When I asked how she managed to keep on keeping on, she laughed. "Lord," she explained "It's my calling!" Baby Ruth, widowed early, helped to keep body and soul together by selling the best caramel cakes in the county and sacking up dozens of cheese straws.
At Christmas, her dining room table was covered in cakes, waiting to be picked up, and white boxes of cheese straws, headed for the nearest eggnog presentation.
She smiled at the sight like a proud mama.
I, on the other hand, lost my baking verve at the halfway point when I looked in the mirror and saw a woman covered in flour, badly needing a haircut, with that 'deer in head lights' look in her eyes.
My husband and daughter, (she, mended and with new energy) found the cheese straw caper "fun." The extra holiday money was a boon for a mother doubling as Santa's helper for three boys, who were asking for a new habitat for a pet turtle and electronic games.
And there was the satisfaction of delivering goods, gladly received, and with a visit thrown in.
I've heard bits of conversations, hints of plans being made for a repeat of the baking marathon to be held next year, but I'm bowing out, not pressing my luck. One encounter with a nightmare wedge of cheese at two in the morning was a sign and enough cheddar to last me a lifetime!
Judy Elliott is an award-winning columnist from Marietta.