Cooking with the Surfing Pizza: Drop Biscuits and Eggs

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After a teeny-tiny scare in which everything is completely okay, the doctor advised the wife to take it easy over the weekend. No lifting, no exercise, no vigorous activity. She took it literally. I took it to mean NO MOVEMENT WHATSOEVER FOR THE REST OF THE DURATION OF THIS PREGNANCY.

She wasn’t having it.

Okay, fine. COMPLETE BEDREST. I’d allow sitting up for meals and timed intervals for bathroom breaks.

She wasn’t having it.

So we compromised at what we called “couchrest.” Well, the wife was calling it “captivity.” But the idea was she’d hang out on the couch the entire weekend. I’d set up a little desk next to the couch for her laptop, gather books and magazines for reading, and neatly arrange all of the remotes on the coffee table in front of her. I’d take care of everything, all the house chores, and all of the three hundred glasses of water she requested throughout the day.

And this might just become a cooking blog for the next five months, because I’m cooking all of the meals from now on.

Reluctantly, she agreed.

So first thing Saturday morning, I began my project/missive/calling by making breakfast. She’d had a craving for fresh-baked biscuits and had intended to make them. I assured her I could make them just as well. You mix milk, flour, and butter in a bowl. Big deal.

Oh, and baking soda. Baking soda is a very important ingredient. Critically important.

Painfully important.

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Meanwhile, the wife was in the other room, blissfully unaware, making sure I remembered to bring in the jelly.

I waited. I waited and I learned. I learned that giving them five more minutes at a time does nothing to improve their state. It will only ensure they fully and completely bake onto the pan forever.

These were not biscuits. They were a new form of cement.

“I think you need to re-imagine your definition of a biscuit,” I announced, ominously. Like if you imagined only the top flaky layer, which had to be violently scraped off with a spatula, and it wasn’t really flaky, but instead the consistency of wet clumps of bread.

I moved onto the eggs. Eggs are another problem spot in my cooking repertoire. I can never tell when they’re supposed to be done. There seems to be a very thin line between “pool of salmonella” and “overcooked mass of rubber.” And because cooking is more like a state of anxiety for me than it is an activity, I just go ahead and make sure it’s an overcooked mass.

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I served it to the wife, who ate all of it, even the cement biscuits, because she is a pregnant lady. Her hunger is ravenous, indiscriminating, and wolf-like, all of time. You don’t even know. She even complimented the eggs, saying I’ve always had a “flair” for making them.

We were only about twenty minutes into couchrest, but the kitchen had turned into a disaster zone.

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Also, I dropped the roll of tin foil and it rolled across the floor, completely unraveling. I learned it can never, ever go back to the way it was, and that makes me really sad.

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The kitchen was a goner. The kitchen was a fallen solider I had to leave behind. I refused to eat any of that crap I’d made, and the wife was still starving.

It was time for plan B.

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They say fast food is addictive. It probably is. I don’t care. McDonald’s is like a warm, comforting hug.

Favorite Words

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I read an article in the New Yorker recently about how our favorite words reflect our worldview. Not that I regularly read the New Yorker or even understand half the articles.

Tangent: Me and the wife sometimes have this fantasy about being fancy, distinguished people, having coffee and orange juice on our deck on Sunday mornings. We even have a vintage 1960s orange juice set and a coffee french-press to help make this fantasy come true. Anyway, in this fantasy, I’m also reading the New Yorker and understanding all of the articles, even those cartoon captions. Oddly, we also speak with British accents.

So as I read this article about favorite words, it got me thinking about my own favorite words. I thought it might be interesting to reflect on them, but it also might be completely stupid. But screw it, here they are.

1. technicolor
This has always been my favorite word. It’s a word that appeared often in my childhood, flashing on the screen before all of my favorite cartoons and movies. Filmed in Technicolor, which has something to do with the processing of the color cinematography. I have no idea what that means. The word means something personal to me—a certain fuzziness, a certain nostalgia, the wonder of stepping into Oz for the first time. The kids today say “feels” to describe a feeling of nostalgia. I prefer “awash in Technicolor.”

2. cynical
A word that describes my default mood. And actually, I consider myself a positive person. An optimist. But those are my programs. If I was robot and you had just switched me on, before loading my personality programs, my default would be cynical. But I don’t like this word only because it suits me — I love this word because it suits so many scenarios. I like to use the word cynical when adding a layer of darkness to some object. It’s like a comfy black t-shirt.

3. gobs
Gobs are better than handfuls, better than piles, better than tons. I love words that describe multitudes. In fact, I like the word multitude itself. Get this: would you rather have piles of money or gobs of money? Gobs just sounds like it’s dripping under its own weight. Tons is overused. Although I do like ass-tons, crap-tons, butt-tons in everyday informal speech, but if I’m writing, I always reach for gobs.

4. gingerly
I had no idea I loved this word until the wife pointed out that I use it all the time. As an adverb, it just feels peculiar. It’s a way of movement that’s gentle, specific, and maybe slightly awkward. Like the way a cat walks along the head of a couch. Unlike the dog, who just clumsily bounds up there and somehow never falls off the back. But maybe you shouldn’t let your pets climb all over the furniture.

5. crabwalk
It’s a word that instantly conjures up schoolyard play and the Exorcist. I love using it as a verb to describe movement in childhood. That scary, hyper, psycho way of moving through life when fueled up on Pop Rocks and Coca Cola.

6. gloppy
A cousin of gobs, but more puddle-ly. I really have no idea in which contexts I use gloppy, I just know that it comes to me often and I gladly receive it. Gloppy is a guilty pleasure, a penchant for candy, a sweet tooth. Gloppy is a melted lollypop left on the sidewalk in the sun. I like finding words on walks, I guess.

7. cloying
Another sweet-tooth word, one that kind of hurts. The one that FEELS LIKE CAVITIES.

8. nectar
Yet another sweet word, “a sugary fluid secreted by plants.” Which actually sounds perverse. In mythology, it was drank by the Gods. It feels kingly. Also see: a 70s prog-rock band, only spelled Nektar. It just sounds like a band name that makes you want to grow your hair long. Any word that can make you feel that way is worth keeping around.

9. crap
I love curse words in real life. I use them too liberally, like salt, and neither are good for me, but who cares when it’s delicious? In writing, I defer to crap. It’s a PG curse word. It’s not ugly, and it’s kind of funny. Crap. Crap. It’s dry and maybe cynical and maybe a leftover hangnail from my Generation X MTV teenage years. It’s all purpose. It’s duct tape. It’s a ten-cent word compared to five dollar fancy ones, and won’t earn me any style points. It’s a crappy word. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s my crappy word, and I love it. So what? I also occasionally enjoy monster truck rallies.

10. lumbering
Another word to describe movement. The cat moved gingerly. The dog was lumbering. But seriously, we really really need to try to keep the pets off the furniture.

Pop Rocks For Breakfast

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Every now and then, a new breakfast cereal hits the shelves that makes you question all of your life choices. Poppin’ Fruity Pebbles is that cereal to start off 2014. Released just this January, it combines Fruity Pebbles and Pop Rocks. Forget whole grains. Forget lean proteins. Start your morning jacked-up on a big bowl of rainbow-colored sugar flakes laced with carbon dioxide. Kids, it’s like having drugs for breakfast.

Now, you’d think as a 33-year-old prospective new parent, carbonated rainbow cereal that fizzes down your throat might give me pause. In fact, I did pause, but it was to thank God for finally granting us a socially acceptable way to eat Pop Rocks for breakfast. Forever and ever, amen.

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Of course, there’s no way in hell I’d feed this to a child. If Child Protective Services ever makes a house visit, the first thing they do is peek into the pantry and see if you’ve got any boxes of Poppin’ Fruity Pebbles. It’s on the checklist next to reckless endangerment.

My mother never let us eat Cookie Crisp cereal. As far as breakfast went, she considered it a gateway drug.

And I have finally made my way to heroin.

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The carbonated pieces are those bright green balls. They pack a nice fizz without it being overwhelming. Other reviews online that I’ve read have been disappointed by the overall lack of popping, but if you mainline a few cups of black coffee with it, you’ll get yourself just right.

To sum it up:

It sounds like: rock and roll.

It looks like: Christmas morning.

It smells like: unicorns.

It tastes like: gingivitis, or maybe I just need to go to the dentist. All I know is my gums hurt after eating this cereal.

It feels like: depression. Seriously, you’ll be coming down all morning after eating this.

Should you eat this: Yes…no…YOLO. (Circle one.)

This cereal in gif form:

Untitled. Or, a Work in Progress.

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So this thing, uh, happened.

The wife is pregnant. Baby pizza is due in July. We’re both excited and terrified. Well, the wife just wants a churro—no, a soft pretzel—no, pancakes. LIKE RIGHT NOW. And I’m enjoying laughing at her random cravings, although it’s really more of a nervous laughter.

We started the journey over a year ago. As a writer, I’ve often thought about how I’d write about this, turning these little anecdotes over and over in my head. At first, I was naive. I imagined it would take a few tries (okay, one try), and soon I’d be on midnight pickle runs to the grocery store, bringing back all of the hilarious stories from the various lost souls and expecting dads you might find there. I’d call this part of the story Late Nights in the Condiments Aisle.

John Lennon sang, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” It didn’t work after a few tries. Or several months. We fought. We cried. We decided to take time off and maybe go to fertility testing. This is what I talked about with my mother the last time I spoke with her on the phone. Her answer was easy. Prayer.

“I’ve prayed this family through everything,” she said with her dry sense of humor, but she also completely meant it. She believed she had a direct line to God.

Then the next part of the story happened. That night, my mom got sick. Over the next few days, her health rapidly deteriorated. She was rushed to the hospital. Her brain swelled. She became delirious. She slipped into a coma. On the last day I saw her conscious, we were all in her hospital room – me, the wife, my dad and aunt. My mother asked who was pregnant in the room.

“Somebody in here is pregnant. Who is it?” she asked.

As far as we knew, nobody was pregnant. We laughed because there was nothing else we could do.

A few days later, the wife took a pregnancy test. In previous months, we had waited and squinted at the tests, only to be given nothing but cruel stark-whiteness. This time, a second pink line appeared easily and instantly.

When God starts talking to you, you listen. I’ve heard people say that, but I thought it was just people talking to themselves. This pregnancy was clearly a sign. It meant something. At first we thought it meant my mom was going to get better – that she’d have something to hold on and fight for. It wasn’t for her. It never was. It was for us.

My mother died. I’d often read about the midlife crisis one experiences when losing a parent. But now I myself was going to be a parent. I wasn’t going to have time for a midlife crisis, and besides I’m not old enough for one.

That’s another thing one of the Beatles sang. Life goes on.

I don’t presume to know the rest of the story. I’m halfway convinced I’ll end up raising the next Charlie Manson, who will one day be laughing maniacally from prison as they read this, thinking about how stupidly sentimental I was.

So look kid, baby Manson, sonogram blob, thing that has been making your mother barf from “the smell of the refrigerator,” (even though I have literally been sticking my entire head in the refrigerator and inhaling, and can make out no discernible smell): I was excited. I was so excited. You were more than a gift to me. You were a lifeline.

Once, I remember asking my mother if it was even worth it. It’s all such a big risk, even before it starts. Getting through nine months of pregnancy seems terrifying – and I’m not even the one doing it. Then you have this kid, this vulnerable thing that’s dependent on you. And you’re stuck with it, like it or not, and whether it likes you or not. You’ve got to raise it. You’ve got to give up a part of yourself. Bad, scary things can happen. They do every day.

“How do you know it’s worth it to take the risk?” I asked my mother.

“It’s worth it,” she said firmly, like I was stupid for asking a stupid question. I thought but yeah, she has the benefit of hindsight. After all, my sister and I turned out fine. Fine enough.

But she’s right. Life is always worth the risk of living it. You’ve got to keep yourself open to it. I’m not saying go skydiving or some crazy shit (and I’m especially saying that to you, future kid), but take your chances, wherever they may lie for you.

I’m saying this having no freaking clue how mine are going to turn out. All I’ve seen so far are some tadpole-looking legs kicking on the sonogram screen. (Update: I originally wrote this piece at 9 weeks, and since then they have evolved into chicken legs.) You guys, it’s worth it.

PS: The single-serving cups of Velveeta Shells & Cheese ARE NOT THE SAME as the boxed variety. I repeat, THEY ARE NOT SAME. They should put a damn sign up in the aisle warning us lost souls on those midnight runs.

PPS: I have no idea what I’m doing. I hope you’ll be joining me on the next eighteen years of this blog as I attempt to hilariously figure it out.

New Year, New Old Things

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It’s a new year. I think it’s time for the type of post I haven’t done in a long time. Time to look at all the random crap I’ve collected over the past few months. Given that yard sale season has been long over with, I’ve been mainly finding crap at thrift stores and antique malls. I’ve discovered antique malls are kind of a secret place to find random 1980s toys for cheap(ly enough).

First up is that amazing Nickelodeon alarm clock. Three bucks at the thrift store. It regularly sells eBay for around $100. Wait, what? How is a 1995 alarm clock worth $100? I have no idea why, how or what, except I’ll say that even though I was a teenager and in high school by the mid-nineties, even I feel a tiny nostalgia for the mid-nineties Nick. For the people who were kids in the era— nope, I still have no idea where the hell they get a hundred dollars for an alarm clock.

I also have no idea what is compelling me to keep it instead of cashing in my instant lotto ticket on eBay. Instead, I’ve set it on my bedside end table where I feel oddly comforted by the gaudy purple plastic and neon green slime nightlight. I actually needed an alarm clock anyway, and I just like this one. Bonus points for waking up to the alarm of a rocket ship taking off, followed by a bugle horn, followed by a bouncy spring, followed by the classic nineties Nick jingle.

Next: my favorite action figure in all of my collection.

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These are crappy bootleg figures that are either supposed to be Masters of the Universe or wrestling, or some strange hybrid thereof. All I know is that I have Hulk Hogan on He-Man’s body–and not one, but two of them, albeit with various crappy paint jobs—and you can easily see why it’s my favorite action figure. Found these guys at a thrift store for about a quarter a piece.

Here’s a cool story to get any collector salivating:

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I found this Brooks Robinson-signed baseball at a thrift store. It was inside of big bag of grubby other baseballs. I noticed one of them was signed. Didn’t know by who, know nothing about baseball, but for a buck for the entire bag, I figured it would make a good story if it was in fact signed by somebody cool. In fact, Brooks Robinson is pretty cool. I might get the signature authenticated, but I’m certain it’s legit given comparisons to pictures and just considering the naturalness and fluidity of pen lines on the ball itself.

For now I’ve just been enjoying it on my “collectible balls” shelf.

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Onto my recent antique mall finds.

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I picked up these three puzzles for eight dollars a piece — a little higher in price than what I’d normally pay, but see, collecting is like going out to restaurants. Some people prefer restaurants with white table cloths and mineral water. I collect stuff like I’m going to the Sizzler for the $9.99 steak and lobster night. Eight dollars for a puzzle puts us somewhere in Applebee’s territory.

Still, I dig these puzzles. I’m even doing them. The wife is making fun of me for doing kid’s puzzles, but I’m telling you, a 200-piece DinoRiders puzzle is no joke for someone with latent ADHD.

Let’s have a closer look at the gorgeous artwork:

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Another antique mall find: Sega stuff!

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Strangely enough, I’ve never found any original Sega Master System stuff in all of my years of collecting. We even had a Sega Master System growing up, but it was so obscured by my Nintendo/Genesis/Super Nintendo obsession, that I barely remember playing the SMS for five minutes. No clue what happened to it, but there isn’t a single scrap of evidence that we ever even owned it. I guess it was sold at a yard sale and forgotten.

So I’m excited to finally own some things with that weird graphing-paper background. I paid $20 for the light phaser in the box, which puts me in a restaurant where the utensils are wrapped in gold-lined cloth. Also found two games for a buck each.

One of them had this amazing poster inside:

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Happy New Year everyone. My New Years resolutions are to:

- read more books, write, exercise, go outside and enjoy existing, put together that DinoRiders puzzle and feel satisfied forever

- clean the house (that is, to make our spare storage rooms into actual rooms that you could like, go in)

- make the basement (which is my den of 1980s crap) into more of a family room (right now that vaguely means it’s less of my eight year old self’s dream world and more of a place where the wife might watch TV occasionally or something.)

- maybe organize the shed. maybe.

Christmas Fallout

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With my mother’s recent passing, Christmas was difficult. My mom had started shopping for all of us back in October, so we each had several gifts to open from her. My dad wrapped all the gifts, including the ones that she had bought for him, so that we could open our presents all together, like it would have been if she was there. He decorated the tree the way she would have decorated it, made her famous cheeseball recipe that she made every year, and re-created Christmas just as it always had been — or would have been, or should have been, if she didn’t just randomly die six weeks and four days earlier.

Maybe I’ll be able to look at back this one day with distance and see some sort of healing and closure that this provided, but it was grueling trying to fight back the tears. Everyone says don’t fight back tears, but tears are fine. I’m fine with tears. It’s only the overflowing sinuses, ensuing congestion, chapped face, swollen eyes, and generalized oxygen deprivation I’m trying to fight back. Crying fucking sucks.

I guess it was good on some level. I’d been feeling closed-off and unemotional for the past few weeks, like a sap had hardened over me. This was basically like cutting a little off the bottom of the Christmas tree. I was thirsty for water.

And with that happy introduction, let me continue with the annual post of showing off all my awesome Christmas gifts. I wasn’t going to do this post. It felt dumb. But Mom was big on tradition. And I got a little sign from her.

See, one of the other things I wasn’t going to do anymore was make a big deal out of Halloween. When she was in the hospital, one of the last days I saw her conscious was on Halloween. She wasn’t doing very well that day and I’d left early, partially because I couldn’t take the hospital awfulness, and because I also wanted to get home in time for the trick-or-treaters. It ended up raining and we didn’t even get that many kids. The next day in the hospital, I told her about my Halloween display and the trick-or-treaters we did get, but she was delirious and didn’t even remember that it was Halloween anyway. There’s other gory, sad details. That’s just how it goes with hospital stories.

Stay with me. I promise this story gets better.

Anyway, all of those memories had created a gigantic guilt-depression-bomb in my mind. The obvious solution was to just never deal with any of it again, right? No more big Halloween. No more sitting out front handing out candy and scaring kids. No more decorating and blogging about plastic spider rings. Everything in life is pointless when everyone dies at the end.

This was one of the Christmas gifts she had bought me:

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Light-up skull gloves, which she thought would be fun AND practical for my Halloween traditions. They light up. They have skulls. They keep your hands warm since she was always worried about frostbite. It’s the triple play. I have no choice now but to continue on next October and do all of my Halloween things. It also just feels like a sign. A nudge. An okay.

So on with the rest of the annual Christmas fallout. I did have a nice Christmas, spending it with my wife, her family, and my family. I love exchanging gifts, eating six thousand pounds of cookies, and sitting through A Christmas Story for the eight millionth time.

Here are a few cool things I got:

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Ninja Turtle stuff! From various people. I got the Turtle Van Lego set (okay, it’s called the Shellraiser because kids today are too hip to use the word “van.”) 657 pieces of impatience, fury, frustration, and glory.

Got the official Ninja Turtle trash can (though it’s plastic and a crime against nature that it’s not made of tin.)

I love the Mech Wrekker figure because it combines reissues of figures that were originally released in 1988 and 2003 into one bizarre package. It’s the kind of toy I dream about.

Speaking of the kinds of toys I dream about:

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A Kraang Fishing Game! Whoever came up with idea is a genius. I actually haven’t opened a single package my Nickelodeon-era Turtles collection, but there’s no way I’m not cracking this open and playing it.

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The wife’s parents gave me a massive chocolate Santa. They were really excited about it. It’s almost more of a work of art than it is a piece of candy. And by piece of candy, I mean approximately 200 servings of candy. I’ve got the carving knife ready. I guess this is their way of saying they know their daughter will unconditionally love me, even after I gain three hundred pounds.

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I also got the Wii U from the wife’s parents. I haven’t paid much mind to the Wii U since it came out last year, but curiosity got the best of me. It comes prepackaged with two Mario games, plus there are new versions of Mario Kart, Donkey Kong, and Super Smash Bros coming out in the next six months. It’s really just a Wii in HD, but the more you think about it, the more it seems worth it. And it comes with a Game Gear. (Or a tablet controller. Or whatever that thing is.)

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The wife got me a Transformers Beast Wars figure. I was a little miffed at first, given my lack of a Transformers collection, and absolutely no context or knowledge of this mid-nineties iteration of Transformers. Buy hey, it is a gigantic centipede figure. I think we can all get down with that.

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This was just a stocking stuffer from the wife, but I feel I really need to spread of the Gospel of Takis. Takis are the greatest snackfood there is.

Seek them.

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Also check out this shirt I got. Pac-Man crossing Abbey Road. Perfect.

Finally, a reader sent me pirate Shrinky Dinks:

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I had no idea Shrinky Dinks still existed. Pirate Shrinky Dinks rule, and they uplifted my spirits a little bit on one of these dark days I’ve been having. So thank you. And thank you to lots and lots of you — I’ve received so many thoughtful comments on the blog and touching emails. It has all helped me. Every kind word has been a life raft. It won’t get me back to land right away, but it helps to keep me afloat just a little longer.

Speedball

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Not surprisingly, I didn’t want to do Christmas this year. I mentioned to the wife that maybe we wouldn’t make it a big deal. I was thinking one or two gifts each, and maybe I’d even bother to dig out the three-foot plastic tree that I used to set up on an end table in my apartment. It’s so cheap that it doesn’t even stand on its own without using the wall for support. Maybe I’d even splurge on dollar store tinsel for extra sadness. Fortunately, she didn’t humor me for even a second. “We’re doing it the same as always,” she said, and that was that.

So I jumped to the next logical conclusion: PRESENTS APOCALYPSE. “Fine, let’s get each other like ten gifts each,” I said. Even the dog gets ten gifts. I was suddenly picturing a massive Christmas morning fallout with 30+ presents under the tree, complete with fully loaded stockings.

“Fine,” the wife agreed, with the resolve as though she were signing a blood oath.

Sometimes in order to be happy, you have to be dramatic. You have to tie on the tourniquet and administer a speedball of joy and mistletoe directly into the vein.

So we did it up like usual, and it has been therapeutic:

THE TREE:

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In the past, we’ve made getting the tree an evening affair, going out on a Friday night and staying up late to decorate it. This year I had the compulsion to get it on a Sunday morning, right before a snowstorm hit. The flakes were just starting to stick to the road as we power-walked around the lot looking for that elusive perfectly-shaped tree. It felt like a timebomb race to pick a tree, and it felt good.

We spent the afternoon watching football, eating snacks, making dinner, and decorating the tree while it snowed outside. It was a perfect day.

THE NATIVITY:

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You gotta get the Playmobil Nativity set. It rules. I’ve had it for about three or four years now, and setting it up every year is still as exciting as ever. I love the janky little cardboard backdrop most of all.

THE SNACKS:

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I like my Christmas snacks cheap and nostalgic. That’s how I ended up with cheese balls, kettle corn, Ritz crackers, and dollar store cherry cordials.

SWISS COLONY:

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Why? Why/how did I drop fifty bucks on crap from Swiss Colony? Maybe I had a misplaced nostalgia for weird mailorder food. Maybe I had a secret death wish to end up on their mailing list FOR LIFE. Maybe I was depressed and just wanted to FEEL SOMETHING, even if it was buttercream-spackled regret.

So let me show you what fifty bucks will buy you.

WEIRD OVERPRICED CHEESES:

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Yes, weird cheese that come with a disconcerting sticker that says PERISHABLE REFRIGERATE IMMEDIATELY even though you know they’ve somewhere in transit for the last 10 days on the back on a mail van. The secret is they’re not really cheese so much that they’re cheese-colored saltlicks for humans.

FOREST FRIENDS LOG:

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Mailorder food has that strange dual-nature, where it’s equal parts plastic-looking, disgusting, and yet seductively appetizing.

From the Swiss Colony website (which is poetry), it is “swirls of cake and vanilla butter creme filling, covered with a milk chocolate blanket.”

Which means it’s a gigantic swiss roll. I have no problems with this.

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Moral of the story: buttercream-spackled regret is worth it.

THE DOG:

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I tried to take a happy Christmas picture of the dog, but instead she revealed her true evil nature while barking at me and demanding food.

So yeah, this is how my Christmas season is going. It’s going pretty good.