College Reunion – Part 2

26 Mar

Jessica had done her research before arriving in Great Britain and had mapped out a few places she really wanted to see. Cambridge was on the list along with a few specific destinations within the city. We tried out the Park and Ride for the first time and Lena was utterly ecstatic about riding on a bus. Rex, as usual, was just happy to be alive. I think he may rival Lena for the happiest baby ever; he rarely cried or fussed and delighted all of us with his diverse range of facial expressions.

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The girls got a kick out of Poundland – the British version of the Dollar Store. Since we’ve been here a while, I’ve gotten used to things so it was fun to explore familiar places through new eyes. We booked a punting tour from a new company and followed them down a narrow walkway to hop on our punt.

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This is Lena’s third or fourth time punting the River Cam and as you can see, she’s an old pro. At this point, we should be able to conduct tours ourselves after hearing the history so many times! The weather was fantastic, yet again, and I think Kim and Jessica really enjoyed getting the scoop on all the school rivalries and scandalous history between universities.

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For lunch, we headed to the Eagle per Jessica’s request. It has a longstanding history but is most well known for being the “birthplace” of the discovery of DNA. The river tour was apparently just too much fun as both kids passed out directly afterwards. Having both of them asleep was a big treat and meant Kim and I could resort to our college shenanigans of annoying one another. She apparently has no sense of personal space when it comes to me so this is a lovely candid shot of me helping her establish some boundaries. I think she’s still scared of me. Love ya, Kimmy!

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After lunch, we picked up some cheese at the market and stopped in for the most delicious Belgian waffles in all of Suffolk. The vendors had added a new sign for proper ordering; apparently visitors to Cambridge lack manners. I’m actually surprised we managed to grab a photo of this uneaten waffle because it was a bit of a feeding frenzy after the first bite.

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The next day, Jason was kind enough to keep Lena so we had a bit more freedom to walk around and window shop. Lavenham apparently lent some buildings to the Harry Potter films so this was a non-negotiable for a day trip. It would be an understatement to define Kim and Jessica as Harry Potter fans. I actually think they look down on me as a human because I’ve never read the books and had no clue what they were talking about half the time we were in Lavenham. Half the day was spent being impressed by all the crooked buildings and the other half was dedicated to converting me to an HP fan. They’ve successfully converted me from the “never going to read it” club to the “maybe someday I’ll think about watching a movie.” No promises, though.

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On the way home, we stopped in for a quick tour of the Abbey Gardens at Bury St. Edmunds. The light was incredible so the wanna-be photographer in me had a heyday. I got some beautiful photos of my friends that will hopefully be a special keepsake from their time in the East of England.

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Kim was battling a cold the majority of the trip and couldn’t seem to kick her cough. In the midst of my “photoshoot,” she went into a coughing fit and of course, I tried to capture every moment. In between struggling to breathe, she was yelling at me to stop taking pictures while I was trying not to pee my pants. Jessica was super amused by both of us and I’m sure she wishes we lived closer so she could have this much fun every day.

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The next day, the fearless threesome headed off to spend the last part of their trip in London. We stuffed ourselves with my homemade Nutella braid and Lena got all her last minute hugs and kisses out of the way.

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Kim, Mama Ka-ka, and Baby Wek, we had so much fun hosting you! You are doing an amazing job with Rex and I have no doubts he will grow up to be a kind, compassionate and witty human just like the two of you. You’re welcome back anytime – let’s not wait another three years before we see each other again!

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College Reunion – Part 1

25 Mar

At the end of February, my college roommate, Kim, came to visit with her wife, Jessica, and new baby boy, Rex. But first, a little history about the two of us. Before moving into the dorms, our university sent a letter to all incoming students with the name and phone number of their future roommates. Upon seeing my very foreign name, Kim consulted her friends and it was decided I was definitely a Russian beet farmer. Her name was as girly as it gets – Kimberly Brooke – and I automatically assumed she was a preppy, snobby cheerleader who would want to decorate our room in pink and glitter. Oh how wrong we were! As it turns out, we were both innocent and naive, from small towns and with the maturity level and design sense of 12 year old boys. We spent our freshman year piggy-squealing (our version of giggling and yes, it was as obnoxious as it sounds) and gorging on Arbies within the confines of our primary-colors decorated room. It was like a low budget after school special about coming of age at summer camp.

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Luckily, we both matured enough to become functioning adults and parents and even found spouses who could tolerate our senses of humor. As soon as Lena laid eyes on Rex, she was obsessed so hopefully that bodes well for another generation of friendship and laughter. Knowing they would all be jet-lagged, we spent the first day at the house reminiscing and loving on each other’s kiddos.

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The next day it was off to Anglesey Abbey and thankfully, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. The girls had told me beforehand that they really wanted to visit historical sights so I knew they would love the winter gardens and Lord Fairhaven’s house. Rex was a trooper despite not sleeping very much and working on popping out a few teeth.

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Ely Cathedral was having an Anne Frank exhibit so that was next on our must-see list. I had never actually ventured past the front entrance so this was new to me as well and I could have stayed there forever taking pictures of all the beautiful details.

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This picture is a great visual representation of life with a baby. Right as Jessica hit the shutter, Rex pooped on Kim’s hand. Amazing.

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With a baby around, Lena regressed a little bit which was quite interesting to see. She wanted to be held a lot more and every time Rex nursed, Lena needed to do the same. So we found a side chapel and turned it into our own personal lactation room.

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Since Kim and I initially bonded over fat kid snacks, it only made sense to pop into an old-timey candy store on the High Street. I had also told the girls how American candy is a huge novelty here and that they were selling PopTarts and Lucky Charms for three or four times the amount of money you could get them in the States.

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To finish off our first couple days, we paid a visit to Peacock’s Tea Shop as it had come highly recommended to me by some British friends. It did not disappoint! Everything was delicious and the number of teas on offer was staggering. Kim and Jessica both opted for a full chocolate course including chocolate scones, brownies and chocolate tea. I was a bit skeptical about the tea but after trying it, I will definitely be recommending it to future guests. I even let Lena have some ice cream – a rare treat for her which meant we could enjoy our tea in near-silence.

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After a quick walk along the river, we headed home to the let the weary travelers get some rest. Or as much rest as possible with a sleep cycling 6-month old!

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24 Mar

Time, like my toddler, is perpetually running away from me.

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I’m not sure when it happened, but suddenly my little girl has become an independent, chatty, and utterly hilarious tiny person. She is truly no longer a baby and really, I’m not sure she can even be classified as a toddler anymore.  She is suddenly eating all sorts of foods (this is the girl who survived on my breastmilk for the first 18 months of life), asking to go to bed and staying there for several hours at a time (this is the girl who slept 2 hour stretches, maximum), and giving me a descriptive, running commentary of the world around her (this is the girl who could not be understood by anyone but me until recently). Wahhh!!!! It’s almost too much to take. And this past week, she was officially potty trained and signed up for preschool. Next thing I know, she’ll be asking for the car keys.

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Before she goes off and leaves me forever, I want to remember the way things are right now; create a photo time capsule of life with Lena as a 2.5 year old. And hopefully, someday, she can look back on it and see that I love her beyond logic or explanation.

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Mornings: organic oatmeal and horses. Every.single.day.

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Walks around the village, to the park, or just to visit the “Buck-Bucks.”

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There’s always at least one temper tantrum through out the day (from each of us) followed by the stare down and then hugs, kisses, and giggles.

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In just a few short months, she’ll be heading down this path to play with her preschool friends rather than to spend time with Mama at the park.

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That’s when I’ll come home, cry, and stare at these pictures all over again.

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I have no worries about this confident little gal. She is super social, kind, and very easy going. I am so lucky to get to spend my days with her.

 

 

Click Mama Click Workshop

17 Mar

In order to get my BFA , I had to take classes in everything from Art History to Sculpture even though my emphasis was Design. Photography was included, of course, but it was a film class as digital cameras weren’t yet the norm. I loved taking photos but seriously disliked the dark room aspect. There were too many opportunities for me to lose all the work I’d put in getting just the right shot and as a result, I figured photography just wasn’t for me. A decade later and I now own a Canon Rebel T3i – a great digital camera for someone who wants to pretend they’re a pro. Feeling confident in the various automatic settings, I was anxious to start shooting in manual mode but needed someone to physically show me how to do so. There is no doubt I’m a hands-on learner!

I signed up for the Click Mama Click workshop hosted by two crazy talented photographers here in England – Amanda of Footsteps Photography and Jennifer of J Butterfield Photography. They put in hours and hours of work getting ready for the workshop and it definitely showed. Everyone came prepared with a copy of the digital workbook the girls had written and we were greeted with gift bags filled with lens cleaners, camera straps, a phenomenal photography book and lots of candy and other goodies. They explained the Exposure triangle and for the first time ever, shooting in manual finally clicked! And the concept wasn’t even hard; I just needed someone to explain in terms that I could understand.

After making sure everyone understood the basics of shooting in manual, we headed outside to put our knowledge into practice. The girls even offered to let us try out their lenses to get a better sense of depth of field, aperture, etc. This was my first time using a 50mm prime lens and it definitely took some getting used to. Once I figured it out, though, I was hooked! While these aren’t the most beautiful shots ever, they are the first set of photos I’ve ever shot in manual and I want to record them forever on the internet so a couple years down the line, I can (hopefully) see how far I’ve come.

We started with stationary objects and lucked out that Jennifer’s yard had just started to bloom with these pretty yellow flowers. And just to keep it real, all these photos are straight out of the camera – no editing whatsoever.

IMG_7005 IMG_7027 IMG_7017IMG_7037IMG_7039IMG_7045This is Amanda – she is a wealth of knowledge of all things photography related and has become a new friend. I’ve actually started blogging her photo sessions which is part of the reason I’ve been absent here on my own blog. I love looking at her work and am constantly inspired by her creativity.

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After getting the hang of outdoor shooting, we slipped inside for a delicious lunch of homemade soup, rolls and the most delicious cupcakes ever. There were all types of coffee and tea as well – these girls gave us the 5-star treatment!

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After lunch, we had another learning session talking about white balance, sun flare, composition – the works. Then it was back outside for more trial and error. Jennifer’s daughter modeled for us (isn’t she cute!) and it made me respect photographers even more. Photographing flowers is one thing; getting a beautiful shot of a giggling, moving child is another!

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Jennifer let me try out her fish eye lens warning me that it can be deceiving to your depth perception. Oh how right she was! I almost fell over when the horse I was photographing tried to take a nibble of the lens. He looked much further away than he actually was!

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In just a few hours, I felt like I learned more about photography than an entire semester of film shooting in college. Digital cameras are a whole new game and with the immediate feedback, you can learn so much more quickly. I was so hooked after the workshop, that I came home and played around with the things I had learned. I can’t get enough!

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If you’re interested in seeing some action shots from the workshop (and also some beautiful photography), check out Amanda’s recap here. Sign ups for the next workshop have already begun and I can’t recommend it enough. I will absolutely be attending any and all future events put on by Jennifer and Amanda!

Pinterest, you failed me

13 Mar

How is it March already?! Obviously, I really am the very worst gift giver as I haven’t even finished my 3-part birthday post and over two months have passed. Unfortunately, they won’t be finished today either so instead, here’s a quick recap of what we were up to this past January.

The Sarge was working crazy, long hours and the weather was cold and dreary. I try my best to avoid plopping Lena in front of the tv for hours at a time so I was forced to turn to Pinterest for toddler-friendly activities. Luckily, I have a special board just for these occasions titled “Fun for Lena Eva.” It should really be called “Messes for Me to Clean Up” or “Ways to Slowly Lose My Mind.” Not wanting to actually leave the house and be forced to put on a socially acceptable outfit, I decided we’d make homemade face paint since I had all the necessary ingredients on hand. The recipe called for baby lotion, corn starch and food coloring – easy enough – and the little girl in the pictures looked happy as can be so I knew we were in for a real treat.

We mixed up our paint, plopped down in front of the mirror and got to work beautifying each other.

IMG_6978 IMG_6980 IMG_6981The look of concern and fright on Lena’s face should have alerted me that something was about to go wrong but instead, I let her slather my face as well in a fun assortment of primary colors.

IMG_6983 IMG_6984It did dawn on me that food coloring usually stains anything it comes in contact with but since the original recipe post didn’t mention anything about it, I naively assumed it wouldn’t be an issue. Here we are, blissfully ignorant (and super attractive, obviously).

IMG_6987Since Lena likes being messy about as much as me (which is not at all), the Face Paint game was over as quickly as it started. Or so I thought. Despite scrubbing our faces with castile soap and microfiber cloths, we were left with a ghostly reminder of the days activity in the form of dyed skin. On our faces.

IMG_6989Let me assure you, there was no color correction done to this photo and neither are we suffering from gangrene. This is simply a Pinterest party gone terribly awry. And in fact, it was much more noticeable in person. In honor of our sorrowful state, Lena serenaded us on her tiny violin.

IMG_6990 IMG_6991 IMG_6992Lucky for Lena, she’d attended a birthday party the past weekend and received this frog mask as a party favor. Little did we realize how practical it would be!

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The Worst Gift Giver – Part 1

23 Jan

I really wish I was better at giving gifts. I would love to be one of those people who always has the unexpected but perfectly matched gift for each big occasion or celebration. Every once in awhile, things come together for me and I manage to come up with a great idea. More often, though, I rack my brain for weeks trying to think of the perfect present and get so frustrated that I end up doing nothing. Then throw in the fact that I’m halfway across the globe from most of my family and friends and it turns into a giant joke. Three of my most fabulous, hilarious and influential girlfriends just celebrated milestone birthdays and since I pooped the bed and managed to send not a single gift or card on time, this is my simultaneous apology and birthday offering. I may need to break this up into a few posts as I have a lot of great and embarrassing things to say about these women.

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First up is my cousin, Liv. She’s eight years my senior which meant I pretty much idolized her growing up. For the first eleven years of my life, she was my only girl cousin and treated me like her little sister/human baby doll. From what I’ve been told, she wouldn’t allow anyone else to hold me or play with me if she was around and spent many nights with my parents so my mom could have a bit of a break. As a result, a bond was formed that has proven unbreakable over the years. I even named my daughter after Liv, choosing a variation of her middle name, Eline, for Lena’s first name. We both know that anything we talk about (even if seemingly unimportant) will be taken to the grave unless the other grants permission to speak about it. This annoys our moms to no end.

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Liv has always had her own fashion sense mixing chunky jewelry, funky hats and amazing shoes to create a style that’s all her own. She has the arms, abs and butt that most people kill themselves in the gym to attain (don’t even try to dispute this, Liv) plus gorgeous green eyes and hair that looks beautiful in any color. If you notice in these photos, I took many fashion cues from my cooler, older sister… notably rocking matching perms in the family photo and the always-classy backwards ball cap with extra large button-up shirt.

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Once I reached middle school, Liv was in college and the absolute peak of coolness in my eyes. She lived on her own in an awesomely decorated house, had weird and crazy roommates and spent her time (as far as I knew) going to Farmer’s Markets, ethnic restaurants (what was the name of that Greek place?) and going on all sorts of outdoor adventures from skydiving to rock climbing. The only thing that could possibly make her more of a legend in my mind was that she let me in on the fun. She always made time for me to visit her, sometimes even driving several hours just to pick me up in her speedy little Acura Integra while rocking out to Dave Matthew’s Band. Seriously, people. She was practically a 90′s icon. As a side note, she ended up giving me the Acura Integra FOR FREE when I was in college because I didn’t have a car of my own. Such a class act. Back to my middle school days, I still felt the need to show my love and infatuation by dressing as twins in khakis, white Jack Purcell’s and some super trendy sunshades. Liv, you’re a saint.

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Once I reached college age, the playing field leveled a bit and the age gap didn’t seem so extreme. Our grandparents lived a short drive from my university so one weekend, Liv came up to stay and took me up on an offer to hang out for the weekend. After cracking up with our grandparents over some hilarious and surprisingly scandalous stories of their youth, Grandma Eva sent us off with a twenty dollar bill for “food.” We decided we weren’t that hungry and the money would be better spent on Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream. Before you judge, just know that our Grandma survived primarily on Scotch with a dash of water. She had also ended our visit with a story about how she and my grandpa broke a bed when they were first married. In other words, she was kind of a badass. While we swore one another to secrecy about using our Grandma’s money for booze, I think we can share it in honor of your 40th, Liv. Don’t kill me!

I could probably dedicate an entire to blog to all the ways my cousin has influenced and inspired me to become the person I am today. She’s a gifted educator, a compassionate friend and an insanely creative and talented woman. I’m regularly teased for being “Little Liv” by the rest of the family and while it’s meant to get under my skin, I take it as a massive compliment.

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Liv excels at pretty much everything she puts her mind to as she has a dogged determination to succeed. However, in my eyes, her biggest success story is still being written in the form of three rowdy, handsome little boys. Not only did she survive growing up with three younger brothers including the most sarcastic twins ever to walk the planet, she is now a mama to a singlet and twins. All born within three years of one another. Liv is and always has been the model of the type of mom I want to be. She speaks to her children with a seemingly unending supply of patience and kindness while still being authoritative and empathetic. It’s astounding. Her kids are smart and well adjusted. And also, they’re ridiculously cute which doesn’t hurt either. She’s always mindful of the bigger picture and constantly searching out the best way to grow her little guys into compassionate young men.

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Liv, I adore and admire you so much. Thank you for always making me feel valued, smart and important. You are the best big sister I could have ever asked for and I love you so very much. Happy 40th Birthday to you!

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Succulents & Sleeping Bunnies

21 Jan

I’ve been on an organizational and purging kick for the past several weeks. As a result, I’ve forced Jason into emptying every single closet, container and piece of furniture in our house. I am now proud to say that I know exactly what I own and have gained massive amounts of space which I am dedicated to NOT refilling with junk.

Feeling inspired by this new level of cleanliness, I decided it was time to fix up Lena’s room a bit. I really want her to have her own space for playing, reading, creating – whatever she feels like. It’s nowhere near finished but it looks a million times better than before I started.

There are lots of little details in her room that make me smile because they remind me of people and places who are important in the Bacon Bit’s life. We try to avoid buying her anything plastic or character-themed but this Winnie the Pooh nightlight made the cut. When we visited the Carlsson’s back in August, they had set up the spare room just for Lena and found the night light on clearance. She ended up loving it and it helped her sleep in a new place so into the suitcase it went.

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The little piggie bank was a baby shower gift from Jason’s cousins and it’s now a major source of excitement. Lena loves helping me with chores – her main jobs are to empty the dishwasher and load/unload the clothes from the washer and dryer. I usually forget that these are “her” tasks and she’ll come running and quickly tell me I need her help. Then she gets to put a coin in her piggy bank and squeals with glee. The clock is also from Jason’s side of the family; it’s a hand-me-down from his dad and the embroidery was done by Jason’s Aunt Muriel. I thought it was sweet for a little girl’s room and every time she sees it, Lena insists we sing Hickory, Dickory Dock.

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The giant, blue ruler on the far wall was a first birthday gift from the family of my violin student in North Carolina. Min, the mom, is a talented painter and makes all sorts of wooden crafts on the side of her interior painting business. As she grows, Lena can pose in front of the ruler while it documents her height. I love that it’s handmade; in my opinion, those are the best types of gifts.

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Don’t mind the empty frames on the shelf; eventually those will be filled with artwork either by me or Lena. The elephant print on the left was from the Natural Science Museum. You’ll notice there’s an animal theme. I tried to pick things that Lena likes since this is her space, after all.

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One of Lena’s favorite nursery rhymes is called Sleeping Bunnies. The lyrics talk about bunnies that are asleep and very still and then they wake up, hopping all around. I’m sure you can picture the choreography that goes along with that. I bought this little bunny at a local craft fair raising funds in honor of a girl in the village who had passed away from a brain tumor. I thought it was absolutely adorable and it was made by one of the moms from our playgroup which made me want it even more. I love supporting other artists!

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Speaking of artists, I’m trying to be more deliberate about doing something creative each day. So I’ve been playing around with watercolor and acrylic paints in addition to a few other things. I made this poster for my kiddo that reads: You’re my favorite Lena in the whole wide world. It’s what I tell her every day so I thought it was a sweet reminder that she is very loved. The rooster was a gift from our neighbor. She brought it back from Portugal as a thank you for watching her dog while she was away.

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Apparently, I have a thing for maps since this is the third map on this floor. I couldn’t resist the bright colors and I loved that it had illustrations for each area that represented what they were known for. Lena has made sure to point out all the different animals and images to me several times a day so it seems she likes it as well.

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Succulents are my absolute favorite. I’ll probably be putting a lot more of these in her room as time goes on because she really likes this one.

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This bookshelf from Target is the perfect height for storing toys and books. And it’s great because Lena can easily put everything away at the end of the day and she knows exactly where they go. At the moment, the alphabet blocks are her most-used toy. In addition to letters and numbers, each block has a picture of an animal with it’s name underneath in Norwegian. She’s slowly learning the names in both languages which makes me giddy.

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In the window, I put these mini canvases painted by my cousin, Laila Eva. The size and colors are perfect.

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This is Bear. She’s a very important part of our bedtime routine.

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Eventually, there will be a nightstand here but in the meantime, Lena helped picked out this funky orange lamp from Ikea. It creates a beautiful, warm glow in her room especially as we’re reading her Bible and bedtime books in the evenings. The hanging mobiles are made from straws that I sewed together to mimic the himmelig designs that are so popular. I bought frames for the two prints then realized they would most likely end up impaling my precious little nugget since she likes to jump on her bed and touch the pictures. So for now, they’ll stay taped to the wall and we’ll call it the shabby chic look.

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I need to fix up the top of this armoire but in the meantime, I wanted a place for these special pieces. The wooden plaque was carved by my grandpa who recently passed away. It has my name and birthday and was a gift to me upon being born. It holds a lot of sentimental value for me. And the frame has the very first picture Lena ever drew. I adore framed children’s artwork so there will be lots more where this came from as this room continues to evolve.

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So there you have it. Mama, here are the photos you requested. I’m going to guess you’re the only person you managed to read this far!

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