It's beginning to smell like Christmas ...

Burnt cookies, brownies, cakes and pies.

That's what Christmas smells like in our household (mainly because when I finally scrounge up enough time to bake I also use it as an opportunity to do millions of other things and then neglect my sweet treats).

Pearyn is starting to get into the holiday spirit of things, which isn't hard considering our house is slowly looking like Christmas threw up all over it. From ornaments randomly dotting our tabletops, tree and counters, garland strewn about the window fixtures and real, pokey, authentic pine needles jutting out from our carpet, I'm pretty sure we're living in the house Christmas did NOT forget.

Did I mention my husband discovered the 24/7 holiday tunes channel Direct TV offers? I'm starting to think Christmas may actually overlap a few weeks because it's going to take us that long to clean everything up. Actually, with the effort we've put into decorating, I might just throw a few plastic Easter eggs or shamrocks around and pretend our "Christmas" village is really a "St. Patrick Day's Village" or the "Easter Bunny's Village" and call it a day.

I wish I could claim that brilliant idea as my own, but alas it is inspired by my Aunt Rosie who once left her artificial Christmas tree up year round by trading ornaments for pink hearts, red white and blue ribbons, and pretty much any other garb you'd use to decorate for EVERY holiday under the sun.

Speaking of a tree, this is our first official Christmas with a real, live tree. No, not just a real tree, I mean a seriously, still-living, giant bundle of roots and dirt, plant in the ground when Christmas is over, real tree.

No, we're not crazy (although yes, we are kind of hippie), it was a tradition in my husband's family and we've decided to carry it on. So when our plump Judy has served her time as a Christmas tree (yes, we named our Christmas tree), she'll find a home in the back yard among the other trees speckling our yard. I just hope she fits in.

In other news, Pearyn isn't thrilled about our new addition, Judy, and usually cries whenever you put her near her, walk by her or place her in the same vicinity as her. And here I was worried I was going to have to keep Pearyn away from the tree, turns out she can't get far ENOUGH away.

She did however, thoroughly enjoy the lights.

While trying to clean up and prepare for the upcoming weeks of Christmas merriment (and the hoards of cookies, guests and crinkled wrapping paper it brings with it), I've been attempted to stay up-to-date on all those pesky household chores like vacuuming, not only doing the laundry but actually putting it away and the both loading and unloading the dishwasher. Side note -- what did people do before this metal box of Heaven was designed?

I haven't been without help though, as Pearyn has apparently grown very attached to the dishwasher. No, seriously, I can't keep her away from it. If we want to accomplish anything without her throwing a tantrum we have to put her in the living room all the way by the front door (the furthest visible spot from the dishwasher) and try to round up all the dirty dishes in the 15 seconds it takes her to crawl over. If we fail our mission, she usually ends up climbing up inside the dishwasher. And being the responsible parent I am, rather than stop her from doing this, I'll just take a photo.

I sincerely hope she is this into the dishwasher when she's a teenager. I have the perfect chore in mind for her ...

Speaking of responsible parenting, we're now taking bets on how long it will be until she gets her first set of stitches. My husband is a bit more optimistic than I am, but if she can make it to one year of age without requiring them I'll consider myself lucky. She's getting into any and every thing. And not just "getting" into it, but crawling, climbing, rolling and falling into it all. At just 7 months she's already pulling herself into a standing position and testing out gravity by letting go. We've already had several close calls with the DVD player, speaker system and of course, dishwasher.

At this rate ... she's going to be walking next month and driving the month after that.

Can she PLEASE stop growing up so fast?



More than just food to be thankful for this Thanksgiving

It doesn't really seem like Thanksgiving was a week ago. I fully intended to write my Thanksgiving blog - imagine - on Thanksgiving, but somehow life always gets in the way.

For starters, I'm thankful to have such a full life that it gets in the way of my spending far too much time on the computer.

Our morning started off at a relatively relaxed pace. Pearyn didn't get up until 9:30, which is usually a rare blessing, except we were sort of counting on her to wake us up a little earlier. (That's called responsible parenting. Who needs an alarm clock when you've got a small human being relying on you?)

Needless to say, the preparation for our big feast didn't exactly happen in a timely manner (or organized for that matter).

Ryan is generally in charge of any and every "dinner" item, while I handle desserts (go figure). Part of this is because he's just a much better cook than I am when it comes to non-sugared dishes, and the other part has to do with the amount of pressure I put on myself when it comes to something as minute as baked goods. It's common knowledge if I had to tackle an extra dish - a side one at that - I would most likely have a nervous breakdown if it didn't live up to my standards (which are abnormally high when it comes to food).

This year, I did the impossible. In addition to a toothache-inducing, borderline too-sweet-pie, I made baked macaroni and cheese. The only reason I agreed to take on this dish was because of my deep love of unhealthy, chock-full-of-cheese sides, and because my mother's recipe for baked macaroni and cheese is basically fool proof - aka- "Amanda" proof. With only four ingredients, it's safe to say that it's pretty difficult to mess this up.

With that being said, I'm thankful my baked macaroni and cheese came out semi-recognizable.

Thanksgiving is usually a holiday where family, friends and complete strangers bombard us with questions regarding a vegan menu.

Do we eat? (Actually no, we don't ever eat, our compassion for animals and good intentions both feed and shelter us).

What do we eat? (Oh you know, grass, dirty and children's tears, the usual).

OK, actually, we don't say any of that. We usually turn the tables and ask them the same things.

What do you "normal people" eat?

Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, pies?

Well, us too.

We had it all this year. A celebration "roast," horseradish-crusted, twice-baked mashed potatoes (not pictured because I blew out the photo), baked macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole and portobello pumpernickel rye stuffing (no, it's not burnt, it's supposed to look that way).

Oh, and lets not forget the crunchy caramel apple pie that almost caused me to commit myself.

Of course food wasn't the only focus during Thanksgiving 2010.

Did I mention how absolutely thankful I am for the close-knit family and amazing network of friends I have?

It also was Pearyn's first Thanksgiving ever. While she didn't really get to enjoy any of our foods directly, we did make several "Pearyn versions" for her to enjoy. From whipped potatoes and creamed green beans to mushroom "gravy" and apple pie applesauce, Pearyn got to enjoy a little bite of this overstuffed holiday as much as the adults.

Well, that and her super cute Converse shoes.

I think Pearyn was especially thankful for those.

Karma even got to enjoy a little treat of her own, we snuck her some turkey leftovers from my parents house (just because we're vegan doesn't mean we expect our family companion to be as well). My husband and I firmly believe that while it's still debatable whether or not man was designed to eat meat, our furry friends were.

Our first Thanksgiving as a family of three was a success ... well, if you consider eating far too many carbs and sweets a success.