What We Discovered at The Discovery Museum

This is the first post in a series I call, “Out and About in Connecticut”. As many of you may know, we recently moved from New York to Connecticut. One of the very best things about moving, at least for me, is getting to check out new restaurants and activities and I’ll be sharing some of our best finds here with you.

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One of the challenges of having a huge age gap between kids is finding activities that all will be happy at. For this reason, museums are usually at the top of my list but finding ones that will keep my 3 year old occupied can be a challenge. When I heard about the Discovery Museum it sounded like it checked all the boxes so our crew of five (my husband and myself and three of our five kids ages 19, 14 and 3) headed there on a recent Sunday morning.

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There are three floors to check out and a large space for eating (make sure to bring lunch if you plan on staying because they just have vending machines with snacks).

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A great spot to eat a packed lunch

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When you first walk in, there’s an awesome light board called Everbright which was inspired by the classic toy, Lite-Brite (Ahhhh, memories! Yes, I had to order her one right away). We had to pry the 3 year old away from it; she was fascinated that she could change the colors.

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We continued into the Dare to Discover room where Daddy and Juliette had some fun together while my oldest got busy wiring a lamp. Even the 14 year old got off the bench when her sister dragged her over to see things float. Mama was happy that everyone had something to keep them occupied.

We headed upstairs where everyone except the youngest had fun shooting baskets and attempting to bank shots (BONUS- learning the science behind it!)

The highlight was definitely the Get Physical room with the pulleys and levers where I captured my favorite picture of the day- a moment when all three girls were connecting, having fun, and creating a memory!

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Other fun pics from the Get Physical room…

We then headed over to the Adventure Science room. My little one was a bit too young to do most things independently but that didn’t stop her from exploring with the help of dad and her big sis.

We then headed all the way down to the MoonBase Discovery area. There was a stimulator where you could drive a lunar rover and other very cool things but honestly my 3 year old’s highlight was driving the big yellow school bus and playing with legos!

Other museum highlights include great art lining the walls, a planetarium which has three different age-appropriate show (check schedules for the day before going), and a Preschool Power area for infant to toddlers under 3.

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There isn’t a gift shop but they do have an area by the entrance/exit where you can by souvenirs.

Overall it was great Sunday morning spent at The Discovery Museum!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Open When…” Cards and Gifts

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It’s hard to believe it’s almost been a year since I put these cards and gifts together for my daughter who was beginning her freshman year at Florida State. When the packing had started and I began putting this together, I was a wreck. I’m happy to announce that I held it together at drop off (although tears were definitely shed!) and we made it through year 1; it was a success for all!

Here is what I put in the cards/packages-
-You need a distraction- a Rubics cube
-You need a taste of home- her favorite cereal from Trader Joe’s
-You need to connect with people and have fun- Cards Against Humanity
-You’re hungry- pizza gift card
-You need a pick-me-up- fuzzy slippers, nail polish, a face mask
-You need some sunshine- $20 cash
-You need a hug- Starbucks gift card (what can’t coffee fix?)
-You miss your sisters- silly sibling pics
-You need to know how much I love you- note and picture of family

I hid these in her step stool but you could easily put them in a drawer or anywhere else!

 

“SO EXTRA” Care Packages

Nothing can take the place of your child being home with you and there is no doubt the first year of college has some rough patches for all involved. One way to make yourself happy is by continuing to do special things for your child who is away and one of those is putting together CARE PACKAGES.

My schedule for the first year was listed below with some of the things I included. For the holidays, I try to stop by the dollar store to pick up cheap, fun seasonal items. Otherwise, I find all my stuff at Target and Trader Joes! I wish I would have taken pictures of all my boxes but I just thought to do that for the last two. I typically used wrapping paper on the inside flaps of the boxes to make them look pretty. My schedule went like this-

September– All things FALL. I went a bit overboard and bought anything with the word “pumpkin” or “spice” in the description

October– Halloween Themed Items- cobwebs, paper plates and napkins, Halloween Oreos, and candy

November– Holidays. I sent a pre-lit small tree, decorations in her school’s colors, and countdown board for their door, tinsel to hang, tons of holiday snacks, and lots of gelt to share with friends 🙂 I also included a new mascara and toothbrush which I did every three months!

January– Winter. I found a great soup mug with soup inside it, warm fuzzy socks, and some Emergencee to fight off any winter colds

February– Valentines Day. Lots of  heart decorations and Valentines candy. We also sent a Sheri’s Berries gift of chocolate covered berries on actual Valentine’s Day ❤

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March– Easter. For Easter, I created an Egg Hunt in a Box for her and her roommate. I filled the eggs with candy, lip gloss, nail polish, and some cash. I also did a separate basket for her with the usual items and some special spring treats.

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April– Birthday Box. This was the first birthday I wasn’t with my first baby 😦 Yes, it was difficult and I missed her like crazy so I put my energy toward making it special for her in whatever way I could. I choose 19 pictures, one from every year, and decorated the box. Inside, I included cards, her favorite treats, a new top, and balloons filled with confetti and cash (I used a water bottle to put the confetti and cash in before blowing them up). We also had an adorable cupcake bouquet (sent by Christina’s Cakes) delivered to her that morning.

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In addition to boxes, there are many other great things to send your child to show you’re thinking about them. Here are a few ideas-

Sheri’s Berries
Edible Arrangements
Target Beauty Boxes (they come out with a new one each month)
-Advent Calendars for the holidays (Target has ones with socks and another one with makeup that’s perfect for college kids)
-Pizza from a local pizza place
Insomnia Cookies (most universities have a location close by)
Wicked Good Cupcakes
Hangry Kits from Amazon
Treats From Around the World

Finally, I have a few deliveries that are specific to Tallahassee (where my daughter goes to school- GO, NOLES!)-

Christina’s Cakes
Tallahassee Balloons
Dipped.co
Lucy and Leo’s Cupcakes
Tasty Pastry
Nothing but Bundt Cakes

I’ve already warned her not to expect quite the same degree of “extra-ness” next year although who knows if I’ll be able to help myself!

My Love Affair With Trader Joes

Can you be in love with a grocery store? I think it’s possible 🙂 Since moving to Fairfield and living 2 minutes away from Trader Joes, I’ve developed a great appreciation for the store and it’s unique products, great pricing, and stellar customer service.

I figured I’d share a few of my most favorite products and how I use them.

Starting at the front of the store and working my may through, this is what I grab each and every time…

Not pictured but always in my cart- inexpensive flowers, organic fruit and vegetables, nuts in large qualities, and frozen acai

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Gluten Free & Dairy Free Mini Pancakes- these come in a pack of three and are one of my little one’s favorite breakfasts. I usually serve them with blueberries and strawberries and a bit of maple syrup.

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Frozen Mangos- so delicious, right out of the freezer, as a healthy snack and perfect to use in smoothies

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Zucchini Fries- these are my daughter’s go-to after school snack

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Chocolate Covered Bananas- a perfect nibble when you want something sweet

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Multigrain Crackers- We use these for blueberry cheese (more on that below) and hummus

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Everything But the Bagel Seasoning- Can you say OBSESSED? I put this in my eggs, on toast, and sprinkled over avocado

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Orange Blossom Hand Soap- I use this as my kitchen hand soap. It smells great but my favorite thing about it is how it feels; the oils in it make your hands feel super soft!

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Lavender Scrub- great ingredients, amazing smell and my skin feels awesome after using

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Coffee- just good coffee 🙂

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Blueberry Cheese- someone recommended this to me and somehow, someway this has become my little one’s favorite snack (goat cheese is a bit of an odd choice for a three year old but it’s so tasty so I can understand why)

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Spicy Hummus- WARNING! VERY ADDICTING if you like spicy things

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Cereal- I always need to have on hand when my college- aged daughter is home. She like this one and the Banana Crunch Clusters.

 

Did you know Trader Joes has a website with amazing recipes using their products? Check it out!

 

Finally, here are some links to some incredible blog posts which feature more Trader Joes recipes.

 

Are there any incredible products I missed? Please share your favorites in the comments!

What Potty Training Actually Looked Like For Us- Keepin’ It Real!

Naked and three days. That’s what you’ll hear again and again regarding potty training and that’s the method most people I know use. But I’m here to tell you that for us, it certainly wasn’t three days. Here’s what the process looked like for us.

First of all, know that all kids are different and it’s in everyone’s best interest to wait until your child is ready. We first gave potty training a go when my daughter was 2 years and 4 months. She was showing many signs of being ready but, after two days of staying home and keeping her naked from the waist down, she was no where near 50% success; she was literally peeing everywhere! We decided to stop and it was definitely for the best.

We tried again when she was 2 years and 7 months and this time was much different right from the start. On the first day, she only had one accident! I couldn’t believe the difference three months made- she really understood what was going on. The following days were not as great as day one but she was easily at 75% success so I knew we were on the right track.

We stayed home as much as possible for the first few weeks. I tried to put underwear on her at home but she would just pee in them. I used pull-ups for nap time and bed time and when we would go out. We were very successful when she was naked but if she had underwear or a pull-up on, she treated it like a diaper. I was beginning to get frustrated.

I decided it must be the pull-ups. I stopped using them for outings and nap time (I still use them for bed time) and just keep her naked from the waist down whenever we were home. And THAT was the magic that worked for us! For my daughter, feeling anything down there must have reminded her of a diaper. After a full month of this strategy, she was 90% potty trained and went many days without accidents.

The Details

Before you start, gather your supplies. Here is what we used.

 

 

It turns out my little one wasn’t interested in the sticker chart at all so I used “pee pee candy”- one single M&M.  Knowing kids very commonly have an issue with going #2 on the potty, I made the reward for that a lollipop (a small Dum Dum). (I realize there are many opinions about using candy as a reward but this is what worked for us so please no judgement!). We keep one potty in the car and that has been a lifesaver!

Know that taking your child to pee in public SUCKS. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Bathrooms are dirty and they’ll want to touch everything. In the beginning you’ll have to take them every 15-30 minutes so be prepared to get to know every bathroom of the places you frequently visit. Watch this hilarious video on peeing in public with a toddler for a visual 🙂 The struggle is real, my friends!

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Momsplained- How to Teach a Toddler to Pee in Public

 

And that’s what potty training looked like in our house. We are two months in and she still occasionally has accidents; it’s not usually 100% for quite some time. I sometimes keep her naked from the waist down at home for sheer ease because she can’t fully pull down her pants by herself but if she’s naked she can go to the potty and wipe herself independently- hallelujah!

*This post may include affiliate links which means if you chose to buy something I mention, please do so using the links above. There is no additional cost to you and it’s a nice way to say thank you and help offset this Mom’s addiction to Amazon Prime*

One simple thing you can do to make your house safer for your teens

You would have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the opioid crisis here in the US. In addition to opioids, teens have been known to get into prescription drugs (and even over-the-counter drugs such as Nyquil and cough syrups) looking for a free, easy high.

Its very easy to overlook these articles and bypass these stories, thinking “my kid would never…” but rest assured that many parents of those kids thought the exact same thing.

So today I urge you to do one simple thing to make your house safer for your teens-

Lock up your prescription medicine and any potentially dangerous over-the-counter medicines in a safe.

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It’s easier than you think. I ordered my medicine safe on Amazon for under $40. My husband, who is not particularly handy, installed it in minutes. I wouldn’t describe this particular safe as heavy-duty but we don’t have many prescription drugs in our home so this fits our needs. There are many more larger, more substantial safes on the market. Find one that fits the needs of your home and order it today.

This is a no-brainer. I hope and pray that it will never by “my kid” or “your kid” but it is always someone’s kid so lets take that extra step of precaution to keep them safe.

*This post may include affiliate links which means if you chose to buy something I mention, please do so using the links above. There is no additional cost to you and it’s a nice way to say thank you and help offset this Mom’s addiction to Amazon Prime*

Friday Favs

Friday Favs- a spot where I share my favorite products, apps, sites, articles, and moments from the week.

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What’s better than hygge?

Have you heard of Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) ? It should be everyone’s winter goal this year! Hygge is a danish word that is more of a feeling than a wordit’s finding simplicity and creating cozy moments throughout the winter months, which we all need more of. Check these articles out for the basics… How to Master the Art of Hygge, The Hygge Phenomenon and this great book, Making Winter: A Hygge Inspired Guide to the Winter Months.

Going along with the idea of Hygge, another topic I’ve been hearing about is eating and drinking only warm foods. Winter is a great time to start.

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My oldest loves bees. It’s a passion for her and she recently did this awesome project for a college class. So what better gift than honey that not only tastes great but has amazing health benefits? Here’s what’s going in her stocking and why.

Lets talk advent calendars. When my girls were little I never did them because I wanted to stay away from excess candy. Now there’s so many non-candy options to choose from!

 

We chose this one and I’m loving it! Advent calendar from Crayola

I couldn’t leave my teen out so I picked up this 12 Days of Beauty from Target.  Target also makes many different 12 Days of Socks sets. How fun!

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After so many years of not buying Barbies, I must admit that picking up this year’s Holiday Barbie made me exceedingly happy. It’s a great tradition to begin- my girls were always so excited to see the special Barbie Santa would bring 🙂

Have a great weekend and enjoy the snow if you’re getting any!

*This post includes affiliate links which means if you chose to buy something I mention, please do so using the links above. There is no additional cost to you and it’s a nice way to say thank you and help offset this Mom’s addiction to Amazon Prime*

Juuling Basics- A MUST READ for anyone who has a child in middle/high school

I find myself envying my parents more and more these days when it comes to raising teenagers. Gone are the days when your child would come home and you could give them the once over- pull them close and give them a good sniff- and detect if they’ve been smoking cigarettes or pot. E- cigarettes, AKA vaping, AKA Juuling, has taken smoking to a whole new level.

The Basics (taken from E-cigarettes and vaping: Everything you need to know)

  • E-cigarettes are battery operated inhalers that consist of a rechargeable battery, a cartridge called a cartomizer and an LED that lights up at the end when you puff on the device.
  • Vaping is defined as the act of inhaling water vapor through a personal vaporizer or electronic cigarette. When users draw on the device, the battery heats the liquid, which is then atomized into an inhalable vapor.
  • Juul is a specific, very popular type of vaporizer.

So in essence when you hear about “Juuling”, you are hearing about vaping and e-cigarettes.

 

What You Need To Know

What it looks like…

 

 

 

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A Juul looks just like a USB drive and could very easily be overlooked or mistaken for something else. They also sell skin decal wraps in the most popular brands.

What it smells like…

The vapor from Juul smells super, super sweet. I’m talking toothache sweet. If your child is Juuling, you may be able to pick up the fruity scent on them. They come in flavors such as creme brulee, mango, and fruit medley. Kids are Juuling in school (bathrooms, cafeterias, even in the classrooms! because there is no scent of smoke and the vapor disappears in an instant.

Why it’s dangerous…

Kids are under the very wrong impression that juuling is not dangerous. While it’s true, e-cigarettes and Juul do not have tobacco, they do have nicotine. In fact, one juul pod has as much nicotine as an entire pack of traditional cigarettes.

Another danger is the possibility of something called popcorn lung. Diacetyl (which is found in Juul) is a buttery flavored chemical. “When inhaled, diacetyl causes bronchiolitis obliterans – more commonly referred to as “popcorn lung” – a scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways. While the name “popcorn lung” may not sound like a threat, it’s a serious lung disease that causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, similar to the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” (taken from Popcorn Lung: A Dangerous Risk of Flavored E-Cigarettes)

It’s also important to note that these devices can be modified to use THC oil. A quick search on youtube and your child will know how to if he/she has the desire.

 

The most dangerous thing of all, in my opinion, is that the same kids who think cigarettes are disgusting think juuling is cool. It literally checks all the boxes- it looks “cool”, it smells good, it tastes good and it charges like all of their other devices. Boys, especially, are very into doing tricks with the vapor and even have instagram accounts set up to document it all.

What’s a parent to do?

Stay informed. Talk to your kids- A LOT. Do spot checks on their phones (when you check their phones, make sure to check their pictures and screenshots) and every now and again, give a quick look in their rooms/backpacks. Make sure they know how dangerous juuling is and that it is addictive. Good luck- we all need it!

Think your kid is Juuling? Pick up a nicotine test kit.

 

Transitioning From a Crib to a BIG GIRL/BOY BED

This experienced mom made a rookie mistake.

I thought the transition from a crib to a toddler bed would be no big deal, when in fact any change for a two year old is a very big deal. Take my advice and follow these tips for the smoothest transition possible.

My best piece of advice? WAIT AS LONG AS POSSIBLE. My daughter climbed out of the crib once and I thought she needed a bed right away. I should have waited to see if that was a fluke or an actual issue.

 

Assuming you are ready and have waited as long as possible, first, choose the bed. You may want to consider just placing a mattress on the floor. There are also some really adorable floor beds on Etsy. Whether you choose to use your crib mattress or go straight to a twin, the most important thing is your child needs to be able to get in and out easily to foster independence.

Most toddler beds come with some type of rail but it proved basically useless for my kid. These magic bumpers were a wonder and so inexpensive.

It’s important to mention, if you haven’t already, you must completely baby proof the entire room. Attach dressers and bookshelves and anything else that could tip over to the wall. Cover all outlets. Make sure all windows are properly secured. Your child is about to get a taste of freedom and they’re certainly going to use it!

Next, plan what you will do if (more likely, WHEN) you child will attempt to exit their room. If you currently shut their door after you put them to bed, this may continue to work. If you don’t or if they can open the door, have this extra tall gate on hand. I would say have it on hand regardless. You can put it in place and still shut the door- then it just serves as an insurance policy that they are not wandering the halls at all hours.

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My daughter sitting on the floor, very unhappy she could no longer wander the halls (we practiced “fading” and would first sit close to the gate, then in the hallway where she could see us, and then in the hallway out of sight)

Finally, pick up one of these handy “OK to Wake” alarm clocks. Even though my kid is far from understanding actual time, she gets that green means it time to wake up. When she calls for me at 5am, I ask her to look at her clock and see if it’s green. She says no and *mostly* goes back to sleep 🙂 🙂 🙂

Be prepared that you might need to sleep train your child all over again. Hopefully these tips and products will make it as easy as possible for you!

*This post includes affiliate links which means if you chose to buy something I mention, please do so using the links above. There is no additional cost to you and it’s a nice way to say thank you and help offset this Mom’s addiction to Amazon Prime*

 

 

College Move-In- What You Need To Know

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The decision has been made! Wahooooooooo!                So now what?!

I can’t believe it’s been six months since my oldest decided where she was going to go to school. It both feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago, which speaks to how busy the last few months have been. Here you’ll find some tips on what to do as soon as the big decision has been made, the best way to tackle move-in for out-of-state parents and some great dorm extras.

First things first, do these 3 things RIGHT AWAY!

  • Pay deposit for school AND housing ASAP if you haven’t done so already (I suggest paying the housing deposit on your child’s top two as soon as they get in)
  • Book hotel and flights (if necessary) for move-in and Parents’ Weekend. Hotels in college towns book quickly and prices go through the roof!
  • Join the university’s parent groups on Facebook. They are a tremendous resource.

The Prep

For us, shopping before hand wasn’t an option since we were flying to Tallahassee from Connecticut. This caused me great deal of stress in the months leading up to move-in because I couldn’t wrap my head around how this would work, logistically speaking. After countless hours planning and organizing, here is what worked for us.

First, we did something called a “pack and hold” at our local Bed, Bath and Beyond and chose the pick up location to be a store close to her school. We waited until their college event because they offer you a 20% off your entire order coupon which can be used again and again until October 1st (as you can imagine, that was a God send!). The great thing is you can add anything and everything to your list and then, when you go to pick up, you can decide what you still wanted and what you no longer needed (you pay when you pick up).

When we flew down, my daughter packed in three large duffles. She brought a lot of clothes and shoes and a handful of personal items. We also had a few things that we had picked up for the dorm because either they didn’t have at Bed, Bath and Beyond or she just really liked it (I also hid away her “Open when…” cards and gifts in a small storage ottoman). She did not bring any toiletries because we planned on buying everything there. We also placed a large order to DormCo for their desk hutch, a mini-refrigerator shelf and some other random things. I set this up to be delivered to the UPS store on campus and then paid a small fee to have them deliver it directly to the dorm.

 

We arrived in Tallahassee the day before move-in. After checking into our hotel, we picked up everything at BBB and then did a major Target run for everything that was still on our list. The car was packed and we were exhausted after a day of travel and lots and lots of shopping. We washed all her bed sheets and blankets in the hotel so they would be ready to put on the bed the next day.

The Day is Finally Here 🙂 😦

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Unfortunately, my daughter got stuck in the oldest and smallest dorm on campus. In order to make the best of the situation, I watched many “dorm tours” of her particular dorm on youtube to see how kids had it set up (just go to youtube and type in the name of the college and the particular dorm and it most likely will pop right up). This was a life saver!

When we entered the room, we knew exactly what to expect and how we planned on arranging the beds. I had ordered a carpet from the school so it was waiting in the room for us. My husband started to arrange the beds and put together stuff and I put on my gloves and started cleaning the bathroom.

There were a few things we didn’t expect and that we forgot so an additional Target run and BBB run were necessary- plan on that.

With a lot of time spent online (if you’re not familiar with Pinterest, now is a good time to check it out) and some hard work and $$, we managed to turn a very small, blahhh room into something cozy, comfortable, and perfect for our girl.

 

 

Dorm Extras

You can easily find a million lists of the necessities to pack for college so I’m only going to mention the “extras” that I thought were really helpful or just very nice 🙂

 

Tapestries (Urban Outfitters has a ton to chose from) and lights are also a must these days. Since her closet did not have doors (WTH?), we used a pole and a shower curtain and it worked great.

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Finally, this “snack hack” using an over-the-door shoe organizer was a big hit from the moment it was filled 🙂 (this is the pic she sent me today- I’m loving that they keep it filled!)

I won’t even begin to get into the emotional aspect of move-in day- that’s another post for another day!

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