Merry Christmas to all those celebrating! We fested in grand Mallozzi tradition by pretty much eating our faces off. Now, usually, I prepare a roast for the occasion but, since the gang at Fuel offered, I was more than happy to take a couple of magnificent cote de boeufs off their hands along with some of their buttery whipped potatoes. Mom contributed by making cannelloni and roasted cipollini onions while my sister’s spin on a Nigella Lawson-inspired brussel sprout and pancetta dish proved a rousing success. Three fantastic desserts capped off the meal: a Ganache Patisserie dark chocolate gingerbread mousse – peach ginger compote – white chocolate Szechuan pepper parfait – gingersnap crumble – chocolate pumpkin cake, a chocolate veloute comprised of 70% dark chocolate mousse and dark chocolate crème brulee (also from Ganache Patisserie), and Fondy’s favorite purple yam (ube) cake (from Goldilocks bakery) that I, of course, crowned with pistachio ice cream and a generous drizzle of Advokaat (eggnog liqueur). Suitably stuffed, I worked off dinner by sitting on the couch and reading the first couple of hundred pages of The Princess Bride while Fondy, sis, mom, and Shawne (Fondy’s business partner who brought her two skipperkees along) settled down to an animated game of Scrabble followed by an equally raucous round of Pictionary. Oh yeah, I also found time to get bitten by Lulu who drew blood when I moved in to separate her from Jelly once they started fighting over their Hoggin-Dawgs stuffed ice cream cone toy. She’s turning out to be quite the little bitch, always stealing toys from the other pugs and then getting into scraps with them when they attempt to reclaim the purloined items. I believe some time in bulldog boot camp may be in order. Come midnight – exhausted and ready for bed – we decided to open our presents. My sister distributed them, Fondy handled garbage detail, I snapped photos, and my mother rescued the used wrapping paper, carefully smoothing it out and refolding it for future re-use. I was handed a chocolate assortment with a card that read: To Joe, Love Liz. “Who the heck is Liz?”I wondered aloud. “Sis,”my mother corrected me as, very clearly, she had been the one to give me the gift on my sister’s behalf. “But it says Liz,”I had to point out yet again. “It says Sis,”my mother insisted. I motioned my sister over (whose name is Andria, by the way, and not Liz) and asked her to read the card. “To Joe,”she read. “Love Liz.” “Sis!”my mother persisted. Okay, okay. Sis it is. But I’ve included a pic of the card and will let you decide. I also scored more chocolate, a Pied de Cochon cookbook, even more chocolate, another cookbook (which, my sister pointed out, will join the many other cookbooks sitting forlorn and gathering dust on my downstairs bookshelf), yet more chocolate, cologne, and an impressive array of black socks (as opposed to the Christmas socks I received one year and made the mistake of wearing to work one day only to have them go off and play a little holiday tune – during the board meeting I was attending). A great haul for everyone else. I won’t go into detail (as I’m sure you’ll read all about it on their respective blogs), but the highlights included a wacky framed picture of my wacky wife, some cordless phones for my mother that I told her were walkie talkies in the event she got lost in the woods and needed to contact the local authorities for immediate evac (it was great watching her try to look pleased with the unexpected gift), and a Tiffany necklace and, yes, Christmas socks for Andria. By the way, just a reminder to all of those taking part in the Book Club discussions that we’ll be discussing Peter Straub’s Ghost Story and/or Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife and/or William Goldman’s The Princess Bride during the first full week of January, and following the week after with a discussion of Sean Wiliams’ The Crooked Letter (those taking part in the latter have a shot at winning a copy of the second book in the series, compliments of Pyr). I finished off Joe Abercrombie’s Last Argument of Kings and Philip K. Dick’s Ubik last week and will be weighing in with my thoughts in the coming days. And Happy Birthday to PG15! Damnit! I included comments with all of the pics but they didn’t show up. They went something like this – Video: Lulu claims Max’s Christmas collar. Pics: Shawne and the little terror, cote de boeuf, canelloni, brussel sprouts cooking, cipollini onions, Jelly chows down on her strawberry cone, Liz?, a keeper for my office, Fondy, SOCKS!!!, and one of those splatter guards for when you’re frying something up, Andria and her new necklace, my mother’s new walkie-talkies, Jelly and her Hoggin-Dawgz ice cream cone. A quickie mailbag – PG15 writes: “ Are you gonna give us another spoiler poem to end the year like last year?” Answer: It really depends on how creative I feel when the time comes. Raina James writes: “The Night Before Christmas: Atlantis Style” Answer: Destined to be a Pegasus holiday classic. Talen writes: “By the way, do you read or write poetry?” Answer: I do not. Siba writes: “Do you speak Italian as well?!” Answer: I do. Dovil writes: “Put this down to too much food and drink…” Answer: This is cause for celebration! Dovil, this is the first comment you’ve sent me that I haven’t had to fish out of my spam folder.