Hiking in Style: Desert Fashion Photography at Coon Bluff, Arizona

bliss tulle Juliet skirt

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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Sharing the Gift of Timeless Love with Michael Hill Jewelers

This post is sponsored by Michael Hill Jewelers. All opinions are mine alone.

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Last month I partnered with Michael Hill Jewelers to showcase my journey of love and a how a beautiful pair of halo stud earrings from Michael Hill represents just that. ‘Tis the season, and I’m partnering once again with Michael Hill Jewelers to help spread the joy of meaningful giving to our loved ones.

My mom and I have a complicated relationship. I wish I could say she is like those warm and fuzzy tv moms like Mandy Moore’s character on This is Us, or Family Ties’ beloved Elyse Keaton. But my mother, well, she’s more like the Vietnamese version of Ray Barone’s mom, and drives me mental. Ya feel me? I was (am) always the black sheep in the family, fiercely independent and frequently admonished for rebelling. I try my best to remember that my mom grew up in a different culture, and that her harsh persona and extreme nagging are par for the course for her generation and upbringing. We recently finished watching the The Vietnam War documentary film by Ken Burns. It gave me a renewed sense of pride and love for my parents for their sacrifices to bring me and my brother to America when fleeing the Fall of Saigon in the 1970s. (You can read more on the blog about my family’s perseverance to seek freedom.)

This Christmas, I decided to choose a timeless piece of jewelry to give my mom – to honor the unconditional sacrifices a mother makes for her children, time and time again. Jewelry is a luxury for my mom, so she never shops for it herself (not even costume jewelry), even though we all know moms deserve something pretty now and then.

With this in mind, I headed over to Michael Hill Jewelers at Oakbrook Center, in search of the perfect piece that would serve as an expression of my eternal gratitude. Michael Hill Jewelers is one of the few jewelry retailers to have an in-house team of master craftsmen, so this makes any gift from here even more meaningful! After studying the dazzling displays, I finally chose this vintage style pendant with luxe cubic zirconia in sterling silver that fits the bill. It has a classic design of a 10-point flower encircling the center cubic zirconia to ensure she will sparkle at every angle – perfect for those special occasions.

For her everyday style, I chose a modern sterling silver stud earring set featuring a circle design. It’s a simple piece my mom can wear every day without pomp or circumstance, but still looks put together. I can’t wait to see the look on my mom’s face when she opens her gifts on Christmas morning. In what ways do you gift love back to others? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

jewelry ideas under $100

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michael hill necklace

I’m For Love with Michael Hill – A Love Journey

This post is sponsored by Michael Hill Jewelers. All opinions are mine alone.

couples fall autumn in tight embrace happy smiling natural light

Bye, beige. Moody mauves, matte blacks and white gold are the new neutrals. In fact, I have a little extra sparkle in my step today as I’m writing this post. That’s because last week Michael Hill Jewelers invited me to visit and shop its store at Oakbrook Center and today I’m gratefully wearing my very first pair of diamond studs. When Michael Hill Jewelers first extended the invitation to me, I was excited, though I couldn’t help but think, ‘really, me?’

We’re For Love

I’ve seen Michael Hill Jewelers’ ethereal and magical brand campaigns all about love before (you might recall this “We’re For Love” commercial – I  tear up every time I see it!). As you walk past the store’s dazzling displays it’s hard not to get the overwhelming feeling of everlasting commitment. Michael Hill Jewelers creates timeless, handcrafted jewelry that is accessible to all and serves as an expression of love for any of life’s moments, both big and small! A single piece of jewelry not only transforms your look, but also helps frame your mindset about love every time you wear it or look at it. With jewelry and love on the brain, it got me thinking, what does love mean to me? Through my own experiences I truly believe that there are three buckets where love serves as the biggest impact in my life: motherhood, partnership and marriage, and self-love.

mommy and me son happy playing hugging

Motherly Love

There’s motherly love. I became a mom six years ago and not a day goes by that isn’t filled with laughter, screaming, or tears. Not necessarily in that order, and not necessarily coming from the kids. But above all, love trumps – it’s what makes motherhood so rewarding.

fall lifestyle couples embracing

Partnership

There’s the love I have for The Giant, love of my life for over 10 years and father of my three boys. Every time I look at one of my boys, I see him. I love how he’s an equal partner in raising our children, without me having to tell him what to do. I thank him for putting up with me and my crazy ways, his belly aching laughs, how he falls asleep on the couch while waiting up for me every single night just so we can go to bed together. I’ve fallen in love with him so many times.

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Self-Love

And then there’s self-love. For the woman I was before kids, the woman I am now after kids. And how none of who I was before changed simply because I am a mother. I’d say self-love is the most important of all these to me because you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Don’t be Afraid to Express Yourself

Did you know my left ear is deformed? I was born this way. I was told when I was newborn, my dad used to tape my ear down. (Kidding, obviously.) My dwarf ear doesn’t bother me. I’m not shy about it and I don’t mind calling attention to it with these beautiful halo stud earrings from Michael Hill Jewelers with ½ carat total weight of diamonds in 10kt white gold.

When I got married, my mom wanted to gift me diamond studs. At the time, I refused to accept this as a gift because she really couldn’t afford it, and because I just wasn’t into studs. Over the years, my taste has evolved, and two years ago, I started wishing that I would’ve said yes to my mom’s offer. Lucky for me, today I have the perfect pair from Michael Hill Jewelers and I’m ever so grateful to have had the opportunity to pick them out and to spoil myself. I loved the personalized shopping experience I received at Michael Hill Jewelers – which extended beyond the open concept, modern store layout to the knowledgeable store associates. I learned that Michael Hill Jewelers is one of the few jewelry retailers to have an in-house team of master craftsmen, which makes the piece I selected even more special to me knowing it was handcrafted by passionate pros. Diamonds really are forever and these round diamond studs are a classic piece I can wear every day!

Whether in love or life’s passions, don’t settle. This morning of reflection was a simple way to remind myself of this and of gratitude, and to feel like the best version of myself. What does love mean to you?

(p.s. I also got to meet Brett Halliday, President North America of Michael Hill. Any reality show junkies like myself out there? Guys, he’s the esteemed jeweler on The Bachelor Canada where the guy does the ring selection at the end – so cool!)

michael hill diamond earrings clusters

michael hill jewelry store diamond clusters

 

michael hill jewelry store oak brook Illinois

fall lifestyle couples embracing

fall lifestyle couples hugging tight

Twirl Away in Bliss Tulle

bliss tulle Hayley skirt and Audrey lace top

Happy spring! If you’re an avid follower, then you know that I adore dresses and skirts. Anything flirty, feminine–and usually, the swingier the better. It’s been rainy and cold here in Chicago, but I finally caught a break to take a little twirl in this gorgeous blush pink Hayley tulle skirt courtesy of Bliss Tulle. Pair it with a romantic lace top (also from Bliss Tulle) and you’re all set for a daydream.

Just for fun, here’s a little-known fact about me: I always wanted to be a ballerina growing up. But that never happened, although I did become a competitive salsa dancer for a few years. I miss those dancing days SO MUCH!

I’ve worn several tulle skirts, but this Bliss Tulle skirt is hand constructed with the perfect amount of frothy layers… giving just the right “oomph” to your look. Stay tuned to see another pretty Bliss Tulle skirt which I packed to take with me to the tulip fields of Holland… and trust me that these skirts won’t fall flat and you’re guaranteed to feel like a dainty dancer. What do you think? Come take a twirl with me?

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