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Where do crayons go on vacation? Color-ado!

Or actually, to Orlando, Florida, we go. Cheesy mom jokes aside, our recent family trip down South included an all-day outing at Crayola Experience Orlando. Six colorful hours of melts downs (talking crayon-making, not my kids), too many hands-on activities to count, and lots and lots of coloring outside the lines – can’t think of anything more kid-friendly than that! It was Winter Break from schools, so you can imagine how packed Crayola Experience was with families all trying to entertain the kids.

Our favorite attraction at Crayola Experience was the Melt & Mold – here the kids can create a ring, shark, car or seahorse souvenir out of crayon wax. Roman and Rhys each picked out a shark mold – no surprise because they love all things aquatic! The Drip Art station is a new spin on a timeless classic. We had fun loading freshly made crayons into the Drip Art machine and watching it melt and drip wax into a swirly-whirly work of art. And of course, we enjoyed the Crayon making station where you can customize the label with your name.

As if all the creative activity stations weren’t enough, Crayola Experience also has playrooms and interactive floors that get the kids jumping and dancing. Pro tip: Plan out the top 5 attractions you want to hit up in advance. You could easily spend six hours at Crayola Experience (like we did), but if you don’t have that much time, make sure to plan out your visit in advance. All in all, we had a blast and Crayola Experience was a welcome break from the usual Orlando theme park hopping.

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Lauren Ashley Photography arizonapinthis

What are you most looking forward to this spring? Me – sunshine, warm weather (or just warmer, because, Chicago) and DRESSES! Like this gorgeous dress that I may have stolen from my glamazon girlfriend’s closet (hi, Tiff!) for a desert shoot at Salt River in Coon Bluff, Arizona. She’s like 4” taller and the dress is way too long for me, but look how it moves! Like a dream. Speaking of dreams, I’m already daydreaming about Spring Break with the kids, and have booked tickets back to Florida to visit the grandparents! After having visited Florida once already in December, my friends are starting to joke that I’m becoming a snow bird! 😉

You know the Instagram vs. reality jokes? I love how this desert shoot turned out. Everything looks so peaceful and idyllic, right? But let me clue you in on a little behind the scenes. There were three of us – me, Lauren A. (my photographer), and Lauren U. (Lauren A’s bestie who I was also going to shoot). Because of the multiple outfits between the three of us, and because we were shooting at sunset and running out of light FAST, I said F*ck it – and ended up shooting both Laurens in my bra and underwear between wardrobe changes. Lauren A. swore someone from all the way on the ground beneath us whistled. Check out Part 1 of my desert shoot here!

Tell me in the comments – what fun travel plans do you have upcoming, and more importantly, do they include warm weather?

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Do it for the ‘gram. As in, hike up a mountain in a tulle skirt all for a desert fashion photo shoot. Come on, you know you’ve always wanted to live on the wild side. Recently took a 2,380 mileage run from Chicago to Arizona just to maintain Elite status with United Airlines, and spent a whirlwind 36 hours in the desert with one of my best friends, Tiffany. She knows all the best locations to shoot in Arizona, and Salt River at Coon Bluff here is no exception. (Also lucky for me, Tiff insisted I take her boots because I was planning on doing the hike in my flip-flops.) That desert sunshine, wide open views, are just what I needed (and am craving right now) to escape the bitter, white winter at home. I chose outfits that were flowy in fabric and saturated in color, like my favorite Bliss Tulle blue skirt. I wanted to emphasize them against the simple beauty of the desert background, using the natural wind to create movement in the flowing fabrics. Hope you enjoy my first desert photo shoot – stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon!

Also, did you see my YouTube video of our Spicy Noodle Challenge? I mean, what else ya gonna do with your girlfriend when you’re only in town for one full day?

Photography by: Lauren Ashley

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This post is in partnership with Odyssey Chicago Cruises. All opinions are mine alone.

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If views of a gorgeous city skyline and jumbo lump crab cakes are your thing, then hop on board the Odyssey Chicago and you won’t be disappointed. Last week, the Giant and I treated the boys to a fun dinner cruise on Lake Michigan courtesy of Odyssey Chicago Cruises – in my opinion, one of the very best ways to experience my beloved city!

This is the fourth time I’ve been on an Odyssey Chicago cruise, but it’s the first for my kids. Our VIP tickets garnered us a special tour inside the captain’s bridge! When we first arrived, the ship’s captain greeted the boys with paper hats before leading the way through delightfully dark passageways, which the boys kept pretending they were on a spy hunt.

Melissa Diep Family Photo Odyssey Chicagopinthis

If you are feeling brave enough to take on the chilly lake winds, the rooftop lounge will give you the best panoramic views of the skyline from anywhere onboard. From the outside, you can admire famous landmarks like the Willis Tower, the John Hancock, and Soldier Field. It was 20 degrees the night we went, so let me just tell you a little more about the comforts from the inside: Here you will enjoy elegantly appointed decks, climate-controlled dining rooms and 3 courses of delicious plated meals from a seasonally inspired menu. And don’t forget about getting downtown funky town – breaking it down on the dance floor, ya know what I mean? I guess he was feelin’ it that night, because Roman was busting out the crazy dance moves all night long!

Parking is usually available in the East Garage at Navy Pier, but here’s a little tip: if the parking lot is full as it can be around the holidays or peak times, check out SpotHero and nab a discounted parking spot nearby!

Melissa Diep Family Photo Odyssey Chicagopinthis

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