Oh Christmas Tree, Faux Christmas Tree, How Lovely Are Thy Branches

We officially went faux last year when we knew we would be away for Christmas but wanted to have a tree to decorate with the ornaments that S brings me back from his travels around the world. But we only had a small temporary tree since we couldn't stomach the price of a grand real-looking faux tree.

On the day after Christmas hours before he had to leave for a three week trip overseas, S went on a hunt in search of the perfect deeply discounted faux tree. He ended up finding a $800+ tree for $125, which just happened to be the exact amount of cash his grandparents gave us as a Christmas gift. He paid for the tree, I wrote the "thank you for the Christmas tree" note to his grandparents and we stuck the tree in its box in the shed.

Last week S pulled the tree out of the shed (the Christmas card from his grandparents still in the box) and we set to work stringing 11 rolls of 200 warm white LED lights on its branches. Since stringing lights on a faux tree is a once-in-its-lifetime task, we wanted to make sure we did it right the first time. And by do it right the first time, I mean it took us nearly two full days to wrap every single branch of the tree. Twice.
We tried to take turns, but it proved to be much easier if one person wrapped the branches while the other fed the string of lights and made sure it didn't get tangled.
The whole process was Feeney approved; he likes any excuse to be right up in the action, especially if it means he gets to lean on, lay on or otherwise touch one of his humans for an extended period of time. He's kind of lovey.

We had to move a little bit of furniture to fit the huge tree in our living room, but surprisingly it actually works well. And the best part is that it doesn't look fake - I'm really glad we waited until the after Christmas sales and that S braved the crowds and traffic to find this tree. We love it, even without ornaments yet!

While we love, love, love the tradition (and smell!) of a real tree, after the smaller investment in the faux tree and the much bigger investment in lights, we're considering ourselves officially faux converts; at least for the next several years when we're likely to be living in the city. Storage issues aside, I think it's a pretty good decision. So how about you, are you joining the faux side this year?

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38 weeks today

I'm 38 weeks today. That leaves two weeks left. Maybe four. Maybe none. Who knows. I did get to see baby bee this morning at an unexpected sonogram and it still looked as creepy as ever on the dark screen, but pretty darn amazing nonetheless. I resisted finding out its gender once again. It was super tough this time though; I had to bite my tongue the entire time.

It's ready to go and we're kind of ready. The freezer is chock-full, but there are still a dozen to-do's left on our list, and the Christmas tree is up, but undecorated, so maybe baby will give us a few more days. As for me, I'm feeling good, but just kind of big:

F @ 38w

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We're so Very Thankful for Everything Bee

We're thankful for so many things this year. We're especially thankful that in 2011 I've been so very lucky to have a healthy pregnancy and that we'll be bringing home our baby soon. It's kind of a miracle; we're super lucky.

I'm super thankful to have the best mom ever, who will be coming to stay with us after baby bee arrives for an indefinite amount of time. Could be two weeks, could be two years. I joke. Kind of. I'm so excited to have her; I may not ever let her leave. It's going to be like nursery school all over again when she does leave - a nightmare scene every single day where I cried forever and checked the door dozens of times a day. Am I still four?

This whole baby thing hasn't just been fun for us, but it's been fun for our parents too, which is really cool. There's nothing cooler than my dad telling me how excited he is about baby bee. They're as excited as we are; it's the best. Right now my mom and I are working on a baby blanket together. Well, mostly she's been working on doing the bulk of the work on the baby blanket and now the pressure is ON for me to finish it in time to bring to the hospital. It's this cool knit blanket called wild stripes from Knitty that I knit a few years ago when my bestest childhood friend had her first baby. Except instead of knitting wild colored stripes, we chose to knit it in navy blue and white to match our nursery.

I only decided about five weeks ago that I wanted my mom to knit baby bee a special blanket, so she's been knitting like mad every single day since then so she could finish knitting with plenty of time to spare for me to back and quilt it. She may have a touch of carpal tunnel syndrome from the effort. Baby appreciates it.

The knit blanket arrived in the mail from my mom on Monday and when I opened the box I was in total awe. I'm a good knitter, but my mom is awesome. Every single stitch is perfect. I immediately got to work cutting several yards of polka dot, two inch bias strip to make piping. I used this tutorial to create continuous binding. Very cool tutorial. Very cool piping.
I'm using leftover elephant fabric from the nursery changing pad cover, sheets and bumbo cover for the backing. See how well all the navys match?
I machine stitched the piping to the elephant backing and now I need to hand sew the knit blanket to the backing. After that I'll quilt the blanket with the same blue and white yarn from the front with a whole series of running stitches. The pattern calls for a bunch of little french knots too, but we're holding off on those 'til we know whether baby bee is a boy or a girl. If a girl, then the knots will be hot pink, if a boy, then navy blue. I have a feeling my mom will be doing the french knots.

Finishing the blanket is kind of a tall order and it may take a Jersey Shore marathon to complete, but I'm determined to finish before baby arrives. There will be no turkey at our house today, just sewing.

So our year obviously revolves around one huge bucket of grateful. What are you most thankful for this year?

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Tuesday Treats: Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Filling

Woah, Tuesday treats? Yes! Somehow the desire to cook or bake that I lost for 8 months crept back over the past few weeks. Call it preparing our freezer for when I won't have time to cook or bake, but we'll still want to eat. Call it nesting. Call it whatever, but definitely try out this recipe.
I actually tried out two variations on this recipe. The first fell flat, literally. The bread was flat, flat, flat. Tasty, but flat. The second? Perfect. It's all about the filling. Then, if you lightly toast the bread before you eat it and spread on a thin layer of cream cheese. Oh my.

Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Filling
makes 2 loaves

For the bread
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
24 oz. (one and a half cans) of canned pure pumpkin (not pie mix)
1/4 c. oil
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all purpose flour
1 t. cloves
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. pecans, chopped and divided (toast and cool 1 cup of the pecans before adding to the batter for an even nuttier flavor)

For the filling
1 (8 oz.) package light cream cheese
1/2 c. sugar
1 T.  flour
1 egg
1 T. orange zest

Prepare the filling
Cream together cream cheese, sugar, flour, egg and orange zest until well combined. Set aside

Prepare the bread
1. In an electric stand mixer or with an electric hand mixer, beat the sugar and eggs for several minutes until pale and creamy.

2. Add pumpkin and oil and beat until well combined.

3. Add flours, spices, soda, powder and salt and mix until just combined. Gently stir in 1 cup of pecans just until incorporated. Do Not Over Mix!

4. Divide half of the batter evenly between two greased loaf pans. Spread half of the filling over each loaf. Pour remaining half of the batter evenly over the filling between the two pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 60 - 70 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf is no longer wet; a few crumbs on the toothpick are ok. Cool on wire racks. Store in an airtight container or slice and freeze.

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Custom Bumbo for Baby Bee

I've always loved photos of babies half sitting up and half smushed into Bumbo baby seats, so when we were first creating our baby registry we thought we'd stick one on there. But before we even got around to it, I spotted a purple Bumbo at the curb in front of a neighbor's house one morning when Feeney and I were leaving for a morning walk. After a frantic phone call home that went something like, "OMG, S there's a Bumbo on the curb, quick, quick, go get it before the trash guys take it!" (never mind that we had nearly a full 24 hours 'til the trash guys showed up) the purple Bumbo was ours.

I'd like to think that the color of our Bumbo find is an omen of things to come, however, even if it is, purple doesn't go with our nursery. So I made a slipcover with fabric that does.
Navy blue elephants, of course.

I managed to write down the steps to make the cover, traced my pieces before I sewed them and even scanned them all into a pdf, which means I should have a handy little tutorial ready for you shortly. Because who doesn't need a custom cover for their baby seat?

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Little Red Chest No More

I'm working on a little project for our new tiny guest room, which when coupled with our new bathroom is our "guest suite." The guest suite just happens to be where my mom will be spending a good chunk of time this winter, so we're trying to make it as welcoming as possible. Besides having a really comfortable bed, we imagine she'll probably need somewhere to put her clothes. So I relocated all my yarn from the red chest that we used to use as a TV stand in our old den.
But the red just wasn't doing it for us anymore. It was all chipped and peeled on the top and just felt sticky, like it never cured properly even though it was primed and painted five years ago. One thing I didn't know at the time is that red needs a gazillion coats of paint or else it's just pink. A gazillion coats of paint and dresser drawers just don't mix. I'm sure it doesn't help that I probably tried to save a few dollars when I bought the paint and went for a cheapo brand either. When will I stop learning that lesson?

So I took the dresser outside and sanded the living bejesus out of it with our little Ryobi power sander. After two days of sanding and ten charges of batteries most of the red was gone. Given how un-well the red paint "stuck" last time I decided to prime with a coat of oil primer this time around. And then because I'm absolutely in love with Benjamin Moore's Advance paint, I decided to paint the entire chest with some of the white paint leftover from the nursery shelves (inside the shed because our neighbors are having their chimney re-pointed, which means it's like the city of Pompeii outside).
I bought replacement knobs for the chest years ago when I first painted it red, but they were oil rubbed and just kind of dirty so I never used them. Now I want to try cleaning the oil off, but of course the box of knobs was relocated during our basement renovation and we can't find them anywhere. We'll give it a few more days, but I have a feeling we're going to be putting the original brass pulls back on just so we can cross "finish guest suite" off the to-do list.

Have you ever had luck painting furniture red? I bet if I'd used a higher quality paint to begin with I wouldn't have had a problem. Lesson learned for the upteenth time.

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We Loooove Having Hot Water Outside

The hot water faucet we installed outside during our basement renovation is proving to be amazing! Dog washing inside during cold weather usually takes at least an hour and a full tank of hot water. With the full water pressure of the outdoor hose? Twenty minutes and a whole lot less water since the water isn't running the whole time.
We bought a "Y" adapter from the washing machine and water heater accessory aisle and screwed it onto the hot and cold faucets so we can easily adjust the temperature. Can you see that smile? Clearly Feeney likes it. Here's to keeping the 'doo smell like lavender all winter long!

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Is this the Bump of a Boy or a Girl?

What do you think, is baby bee a boy or a girl?
F @ 35w
Old wives tales say girl and S claims he thinks it's a girl, but I have absolutely no idea.

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For the Hospital Bag

Two hand knit baby hats:
and a ball of yarn for the hospital bag. Unless our doctors have made a huge mistake, I'll be personalizing just one of these hats with baby bee's name during a few of those minutes at the hospital when I should be sleeping while baby is sleeping.

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Baby Blanket, Slightly More Girly

Tonight I'm working on a slightly more girly chenille baby blanket. This one is teal and coral-y orange with a bird print on the front and four layers of flannel, two coralish, one teal and one white.

I haven't decided what to use for the binding fabric yet. I haven't found a local fabric shop that carries cute designer fabrics so I'm left trying to find matching fabrics online, which can be very frustrating.

Any NoVA readers know of a great boutique-y designer fabric shop? I soooo miss my appliance store/pharmacy/5&dime/porn shop fabric store in Pensacola. Yeah, designer fabric and "a back room" in one store.

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The Glider Cushions are Here!!

They're exactly what I wanted and fit our hand-me-down glider perfectly! Plus, we're seriously impressed with the workmanship. 
You must go out and buy yourself a glider from Craig's List, toss the schnasty old cushions and have Judy's team at CJ's Cozy Cushions make you a new set.

Seriously though, CJ's Cozy Cushions specializes in all kinds of custom bedding, slipcovers, etc., the prices are excellent and I'm very impressed with the quality of the work. These cushions look nothing like our old ones and were purely made from just measurements of the chair that I submit with my order. Plus, their customer service is outstanding (they happily special ordered fabric for me from an entirely different vendor than they usually use). And what's not to love about supporting a small US business? Now I'm just wondering what project I can have them do next!

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Baby Bee's Gallery Wall

Baby bee's gallery wall is finished, blue photo mats and all. S nearly killed me when I pulled out the quilting square, level, tape measure and calculator and proclaimed that all the frames had to be hung "just right." It only took a near break-down on frame number two for S to realize just how seriously I was taking "just right." Trust me, I know the baby doesn't care what its nursery looks like, but have you ever spent hours in a single room staring at the same wall? I had mono in high school, the frames in the gallery wall in my parents' living room get knocked off level whenever the washing machine spins upstairs. It. Drives. Me. Insane. Just right it is then!
We framed a few of our favorite cards and stuck some placeholders in a few of the frames. At the top we have Maine, of course, and a momma (or poppa) and baby elephant.
Below Maine is a birthday card with an elephant on it that my parents sent me this year. We have the first card from baby bee to S, thanking him for working on so many projects over the past several months to get the house ready for its arrival:
And a sweet little card from a friend that has a very special note inside congratulating us:
We also have several placeholder Feeneys:
One Feeney will stay because we're pretty sure Feeney and baby are going to be best friends; the other two will be for baby's birth announcement and for our hospital bracelets. The large frame in the center has a piece of elephant fabric in it right now as a placeholder for baby bee's name art that we'll order from Made By Girl as soon as we actually know baby's name.

We'll probably have to move a few frames when baby gets bigger and we bring in a crib, but for now, this is will be baby's view of the gallery wall:

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Making the Gallery Wall POP!

I'm still waiting for the cushions and the suspense is killing me. Note to sellers, please don't use parcel post when sending goods to pregnant women, they just can't deal with the lack of tracking numbers and accurate estimated delivery dates! I may or may not have called the post office twice to see if they had an update...and our mail was just delivered, another day with no package. I'm dying.

So while I wait for the crowing touch on our nursery, I've found another project. We're creating a little gallery wall of a few photos, some cute cards, name artwork from Made by Girl that we'll order after the baby arrives, and hopefully our hospital bracelets. When I put everything in their white frames I realized the mats were all a different shade of off-white. So I'm painting all the mats navy blue, using the paint from the nursery shelves:
Two coats seems to be perfect and the first test mat I did made the card in the frame "pop". So now I just need to wait for these guys to dry and then we'll pull out our tape measure, level and calculator to create our perfectly spaced, perfectly popping gallery wall.

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So Close!

Our rug for the nursery arrived yesterday (LOVE it) and I just got an email from CJ Cozy's Cushions that the new cushions I ordered for the glider will ship today. Those two things along with a general tidy-up and organize are the last remaining to-do's in our nursery. We are so close to a big nursery reveal, I'm giddy with excitement!

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Lookie look at what I got in my inbox today!

Apparently West Elm is having a 20% off all lighting sale:
Which is the sale they were running when I snatched up our much-loved dining room chandelier last year! Quick, quick, go get one for your dining room too!
Of course now that we've finished lighting our entire beehive they're also selling a smaller, round capiz pendant that I would love for the nursery. Darnit. Maybe I need that in my office. Wait, I'd better not say that, S might tear up the to-do list if I add one more thing to it!

I'm also coveting these end tables that nestle right up next to and under a sofa for our den:
We don't have actual end tables next to the sofa, so I think one of these tucked in the center would be the perfect spot for a laptop and mug of cocoa. It's too bad diapers.com won't let me add these to our baby registry, I have a feeling they'd come in super handy very soon!

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