• holiday,  lifestyle

    We’ve Been Doing this One Holiday Tradition Every Year

    This post is sponsored by Woodfield Mall. All opinions are my own.

    PSA: Saint Nick has arrived at Woodfield Mall! The big man in red is at Woodfield now until December 24, when he returns to the North Pole. Make sure you bring the kids to chat with the jolly and joyous man himself to make all their Christmas wishes come true.

    Guys, between tree decorating, lighting displays and shopping, shepherding your kids around to be enchanted (or terrified) by Santa Claus is a tradition that remains central to the holiday experience for many families including mine. But wherever you land on the joyous/traumatizing side of this divide, it’s nice to know you can find a “nice Santa” locally at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. He looks legit, has a full belly and a real white beard, and friendly eyes–so hopefully your little ones will be more delighted than scarred for life. And with Woodfield Mall’s Grand Court transformed into an Ice Palace complete with lush evergreen trees and fake snow, surely this photo opp will make all your tinsel dreams come true.

    Here are a few tips to make sure your Santa Photo Experience at Woodfield Mall goes smoothly:

    1. Skip the line. Don’t be a sucker and make sure you sign up for special times to reserve a FastPass to dance right past that long line of overly sugared kids.
    2. Plan your family’s outfits and coordinate colors and styles for potential holiday card photos. Do you want everyone to go dressy and traditional or fun with Ugly Christmas Sweaters?
    3. Prep your kids to think about what they want to ask Santa for in advance. This helps keep the line moving swiftly for others in line behind you.
    4. Look up Woodfield Mall’s shops and restaurants beforehand so you can use the Santa visit as either the incentive or reward for the little ones, who may get ornery from waiting. Woodfield Mall has over 2 million square feet of retail shops, restaurants, and family-friendly amenities so there are tons of options. Our favs include Rainforest Café and the LEGO store!

    My kids love the Woodfield Mall Santa! This year, Roman asked him for an Xbox and an iPhone; Rhys wants an Avengers LEGO kit, and Cole wants monster trucks. The Woodfield Mall Santa Photo Experience stylishly combines convenience and holiday heritage for Chicagoans–we’ll keep coming here as a tradition even when the kids don’t believe anymore!  

  • fashion,  holiday,  lifestyle

    Love Letter to My DILF + Father’s Day Shopping at Woodfield Mall

    Where do I start with this Father’s Day post? For fear of being cliché, I want to write about all the things that The Giant is to us: he’s a loving husband and an amazing dad – basically, all the things that coffee mugs say, Dad of the Year, Best Dad Ever, #1 Dad. Truly though, I count my blessing every day that we have him in our lives. He’s so hands-on with our kids, which is somewhat rare when I hear some of my girlfriends talk about how their husbands are not. Even though he is a VP at his company, he gets home every day at 5:30 to take over for me. He’s been responsible for bedtime with the kids every single day for the last 8 years. When his boss asks him to travel for work, they know he has to ask his “real boss” (me) for permission and that I’ll say no. I feel so lucky that our kids have such an amazing and present father in this season of their lives — and I know he really loves being able to play such a large role in their daily lives — teaching them, being there for milestones, and building relationships with them that will endure a lifetime.

    Because fathers deserve a little something special this Father’s Day, in collaboration with Woodfield Mall, I have pulled together a quick list of my favorite Father’s Day gift ideas to give a little bit of an upgrade to those everyday essentials in their lives. Whether he is the “casual type”, “the fashionista”, or anything in between, I’ve got you (and him) covered.

    Father’s Day shopping at Lacoste at Woodfield Mall.

    Classy sneaker

    Every man should have a classy leather sneaker, one that can be dressed up or down. I love this leather and suede sneaker from Lacoste in a luxury tumbled leather with retro styling.

    Father’s Day shopping at Lacoste at Woodfield Mall.

    Cool Shades

    Get summer ready with a new pair of sleek shades from Sunglass Hut, like these rectangular acetate frames by Persol. Choose from Sunglass Hut’s curated selection of shades to complement his look and lifestyle, from classic to sporty. Free engraving included! (Maybe a naughty DILF?)

    Grab the perfect pair of sunnies at Sunglass Hut at Woodfield Mall.

    Classic Denim

    With denim jeans starting at just $40, you can’t go wrong with a classic pick from The Levi’s Store. My fave for men is the 511 Slim Fit Advanced Stretch Jeans – it looks tailored but feels so comfy and stretchy!

    Sophisticated Shaving Kit

    In my experience, most men won’t take the time to buy their own grooming stuff, so treat the special guy in your life to an all-in-one bundle from The Art of Shaving, like this Sandalwood 4 Elements Bundle with Badger Brush – it includes all four essential elements of the perfect shave: pre-shave oil, shaving cream, shaving brush, and after-shave balm! It’s a no-brainer!

    Sporty Accessories

    For the sports enthusiast in your life, head to Champs Sports for his favorite team accessory. You can’t go wrong with a local sports team, like this Chicago Cubs MLB cap. I may have zero interest to watch sports with him, but that doesn’t mean I can’t deck him out in his fave team spirit! #bestwifeever

    Of course, there are tons of retailers at Woodfield Mall to find your perfect Father’s Day gift. (I also love picking up quality basics from the new Uniqlo store and classic cheddar and caramel popcorn mix from Garrett Popcorn!) With more than 2 million square feet of retail shops, restaurants, and family-friendly amenities, there’s so much to do, shop, and eat at Woodfield Mall

    This post is in collaboration with Woodfield Mall. All opinions are my own.

  • holiday,  lifestyle,  personal

    Holiday Cookie Food Fight with the Family

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

    baking with kids messy holiday cards funny

    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 funny

    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 funny

    baking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funnybaking with kids messy holiday cards funny

    Minted Holiday Cards

    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

  • holiday,  personal

    Our Family Holiday Card with Minted and WaxSeals.com

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

    Minted christmas card

    One year, for my family’s holiday photo, I styled a modern, dressed up holiday shoot at a chic downtown loft. Another year, it was borderline naughty Mrs. Claus and her little elves playing in the snow. A creative at heart, I love setting a distinct vision for each year’s holiday photo and then executing the details from the clothing and props to the card printing – after all, our card just might land on someone’s fridge!

    family Christmas holiday photo ideas outfit pickup truck

    This year I went with a simpler theme, a throwback to Americana nostalgia. A historic waterwheel grist mill and homestead in Oak Brook, Graue Mill, provided the perfect backdrop. Between a sweet pistachio green and white clapboard house, and a shiny red truck loaned to us from a friend, we were able to evoke a feeling of simplicity – because that’s really what the holidays are all about it, right?

    The last few years I have been printing our annual holiday card with Minted. As a professional photographer, I am extremely picky about print quality and I only have good things to say about Minted. I always go with a thick matte stock because I love the way it feels in your hand compared to a gloss, and Minted offers a luxurious signature cotton stock that is 130lb., 19.3 point thickness. I like special details, which is why I chose this glittery gold foil-press card design.

    The details don’t stop there – you might consider adding an extra special touch when you send off your holiday card with love. Literally. A lovely wax seal from WaxSeals.com sealed up our cards with just the right stylish touch. I selected this gorgeous wax seal with a “With Love” script design from the Saffron Avenue Collection.