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This post is in collaboration with Minted. All opinions are mine alone.

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It’s that time of year when bells are ringing and moms everywhere are scrambling to take family photos for the annual holiday card. That’s how the song goes, right? Cue the usual Christmas pjs and snowflake sweaters. If you didn’t wear cheesy matching outfits, did it even happen?

Every year I have such a great time concepting my family’s annual holiday photos. I think many moms feel stressed about this, but I love it! It gives me a chance to be extra creative and thoughtful with our family’s theme, and also, we usually have a good time together doing it. This year’s theme – a cookie baking food fight – was probably the wildest, most carefree one we’ve done to date. The Giant tried to shut down the cookie fight idea, but I told him he was being a party pooper for everyone involved. I mean, wouldn’t you have wanted to egg your mom or throw flour at your dad as a child?

baking with kids messy holiday cards funnypinthis

I actually had no idea what to do for this year’s holiday photos up until three days before. I happened to be visiting this amazing studio/kitchen for a client shoot. From there, and with a little inspiration from this Pinterest photo, the idea of a festive food fight was born. As a lifestyle blogger and also a professional photographer, I always try to think outside the box, push the creative envelope a little when it comes to photoshoots.

Once I have an idea in mind, I plan things down to the littlest details: I wanted a white kitchen for the photos, so we rented that incredible studio (bonus is that I didn’t have to make a mess in my own kitchen!). I bought a few props from Target like the Christmas tree table toppers and branches. We wore our regular clothes so no stress in coordinating outfits or shopping. I chose this pretty card design from Minted.com which offers the best curated designs from independent artists and designers. We had a great time relaxing together (um, I mean throwing flour at each other) and laughing. A lot.

baking with kids messy holiday cards funnypinthis

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Minted Holiday Cardspinthis

Photos by the talented Lauren Ashley Studios.

For more family holiday photo inspiration, check out my previous years:

2017 Americana nostalgia

2016 Mrs. Claus and her elves

2015 Holiday chic in the city

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tower bride Londonpinthis

Of all the cities in the world that I’ve visited, London is my top pick for traveling to with children. This is my second time visiting, but my first bringing the kids. Despite all the cool things we did while on our 3-week multi-city Euro trip, my kids LOVED London the most. (Check out my posts from Vienna, Hallstatt, and Salzburg.) It’s safe to say they have the fondest memories of their time spent here in the UK, especially London.

family of five vacation London pinthis

From prehistoric Stonehenge and the Roman-built baths in Bath, England, to the lavender fields of North Kent, our hearts were taken by all the charming pastel neighborhoods in London, and the city’s abundance of educational, historical, and entertaining activities. London is a family’s paradise – there is something for everyone – and I’ll tell you about some of our faves:

family of five vacation London pinthis

Hop-On Hop-Off with The London Pass

Hop-on hop-off buses are the best way to see a big city with kids. We rode the Tube when we were just leisurely exploring the neighborhoods, but we also choose a hop-on hop-off bus tour day package (which we like to do in every major city we visit). In London, we went with The London Pass to get us to all the major sites. First, it saves you money because entry fees to London’s most popular attractions are already paid for and included in the price of The London Pass. Second, it saves you (and the kids) a lot of walking. On top of that, you can really pack in a lot of attractions without having to break a sweat. You can hop-off at the places you like to explore more, and then hop back on again!

family of five vacation London pinthis

Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge is synonymous with LONDON to the world. It was built between 1886 and 1894 and designed to be harmonious with the Tower of London. This drawbridge has two prominent Gothic towers which are linked by high-level footbridges, encased in steel latticework. My kids’s absolutely fave part was the glass floor in the walkways at the very top of the Tower Bridge. It was even more cool when we were laying on the glass, the drawbridge was going up! This only happens 3-5 times a day! You can plan your Tower Bridge experience here.

p.s. LONG LINES here, so buy tickets in advance, or if you have the London Pass, it’s already included!

glass floor walkway tower bridge Londonpinthis

Tower of London

The Tower of London is an absolute must-see part of any London itinerary. It has been a royal palace, a prison, an execution site, a zoo, a museum, and a crown jewel house. Because of its history over a thousand years, you can imagine the stories (and legends) are never-ending and highly entertaining! At one point inside the Tower of London, while we were waiting in the massive line to see the Crown Jewels, my kids were starting to act crazy. So I asked one of the Royal Guards to set them straight. And he did! They were on their best behavior after that ‘cuz they were scared they were going into the dungeon where they keep bad kids.

family of five vacation London pinthis

The London Dungeon

This attraction is nasty in a good way, with all the gruesome gory bits from London’s history. Small boys love this stuff. The actor led tours are awesome and we learned all about medieval torture methods, Jack the Ripper, the plague and the great fire. If your kids are old enough (or just really brave and crazy like mine) and like their history horrible, they’ll love this experience for sure!

Hope you enjoyed reading the highlights from our time in London – scroll down for more pics!

xo, Melissa

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It’s that time of the year! I remember as a kid, it was one of my favorite time of the year. This year, I will have three kids in school! I’ll have a preschooler, a kindergartner, and a first grader. To be honest, I’m very sad they’re all going back to school. As much as they drive me mental daily, I love having the freedom to take them anywhere to explore.

We were able to take care of all their back to school shopping needs in one trip! So not kidding! From fall clothes (because it’ll be cold in just a few short Midwest weeks!) to shoes, we got it all covered. That’s the best part about Woodfield Mall. There are so many kids friendly stores to choose from. Have you shopped at Woodfield Mall lately? I got to check out their new food court. It’s about time! It’s been long overdue. It’s nice and bright with a nice selections of good eats. Are you planning on going to Woodfield Mall for your back to school shopping? What are your favorite stores?

Check out some of our favorite finds from last week’s shopping trip!

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Just because the kids are shopping for back to school doesn’t mean this momma can’t! I couldn’t help it! After all, I’ll be doing three drops off at two different schools and three different time pick ups!

All these great finds were from H&M, Nordstrom, Zara, and Colombia Sportswear. Will you be doing your back to school shopping at Woodfield Mall this year?

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lavender farm in Londonpinthis

Come run away with me to a dreamland! I’m currently soaking in a yummy smelling lavender bath at home after putting the kids to nap and remembering my time earlier this summer at a dreamy lavender farm in North Kent. Lavender season is now over, but trust me, you’ll want to bookmark The Hop Shop at Castle Farm for next year!

lavender field farm Londonpinthis

This family-run lavender farm in North Kent is the largest lavender farm in the UK! In the summer months, the lavender fields burst into a sea of purple. It’s literally 95 acres of jaw-dropping magic. At Castle Farm, they harvest and extract pure Kentish Lavender Oil, which you can shop along with other lavender products, here on their online store.

lavender farm in Londonpinthis

Back in June, I was lucky enough to gain private access to the lavender fields courtesy of my friends at The Hop Shop, which isn’t available for everyone unless you pay for a private photography session. The public is welcome to join on lavender tours throughout the month of July every year, which includes an hour-long guided tour of the fields, a visit to the oil distillery, and photo opportunities. You can also visit a section of the fields for free without having to pay anything! Or reserve a special picnic evening in the field or an aromatherapy massage (must book in advance), which would totally make this trip one to remember. For more information, click here.

Here’s a few tips of how you can use lavender for its calming, therapeutic qualities:

  • Relax with a few drops in the bath or on a pillow.
  • Massage gently into the forehead to help soothe headaches and reduce travel sickness.
  • Use with a base oil in aromatherapy massages to help relieve muscular tension and painful joints or to induce relaxation.

Don’t forget to follow along with The Hop Shop’s Instagram for more pretty photos!

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