• 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

  • personal

    Happy Birthday Boudoir – What I Learned 41 Trips Around the Sun

    At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to post these boudoir photos from my 41st birthday a few weeks ago. I didn’t love the way my body looked because my body has changed so much from the year before. You see, after my 40th birthday last year, I decided I’d make it a tradition to do an annual boudoir shoot just for me. So contacted Magdalena from Pure Boudoir.

    birthday gift boudoir asian classy long hair

    My first birthday boudoir shoot was when I turned the big 4-0 last year. I absolutely LOVED this new chapter, my body, and I felt confident and empowered when I posed for the boudoir shoot. What changed this year that I feel a little down, you ask? I don’t really have one exact answer. Maybe I’m just PMSing? Anyway, in between booking some aerial yoga classes (for fun mostly, but also fitness), I realized that self-acceptance, being happy, “not giving a damn” about what people think can be very threatening to people. (And you know I don’t ordinarily give two f*cks about what people think lol!) People can’t understand it. It unnerves them. They will judge it. But that is not a problem of mine, nor yours. It is simply, theirs to have. Noone knows your journey.

    We all have something about ourselves we do not like. But, we rarely ask ourselves where it comes from – and that’s what I’m digging into this year of my life, 41 trips around the sun. Self-acceptance is a journey. For me, the birthday boudoir shoot offers a new realization each year. I dedicate it to my personal growth and progress. I dedicate it to feeling proud to be strong and feminine. I dedicate it to my clients, to show them it is entirely okay. And this makes me smile… HARD.

    Age is just a number, and it is also a rebirth. It’s an occasion to realize and appreciate who you are and who you are becoming. And I hope to continue these discoveries each year. Are you with me, ladies?

    Hope you enjoy my 41st birthday boudoir shoot, I know it’s growing on me!

    xo, Melissa

    Hair and make-up by the talented Diem.

  • 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.

  • holiday,  lifestyle,  personal

    Spreading 100 Days of Sunshine with Cuties

    This post has been sponsored by Cuties in conjunction with Collectively; all opinions are entirely my own.

    mom and son cooking in kitchen

    What is it about this tiny, seedless citrus fruit that makes kids go wild for it? Is it the cheerful, bright orange color? Is it that it’s perfectly sized for tiny hands?

    My children live for Cuties, especially my oldest son who insists it to be different than all the mandarins and other perfectly fine substitutes out there, and so I may or may not have called and/or driven around to at least 4 stores to get my hands on them. As lifelong fans of these darling clementines, and to celebrate the return of this delicious little citrus fruit this Cuties season, my kids and I are excited to partner with Cuties to share with you the #100DaysOfSunshine campaign, which its mission is to spread sweetness and sunshine to those we love!

    As a mother of three, it is so important to me to teach my kids core values like kindness and positivity, all year round. Cuties reminds us all that no matter how big our differences, they are no match for the power of love. Here are three things you can do right now with your kids to brighten someone’s day:

    1. Make a homemade wreath made with Cuties and share with your friends. Perfect as a festive holiday gift or decorating accent, or simply just because you love your friends, you can check out this Pinterest tutorial for how to make one of your own!
    2. Extend kindness beyond your family and friends, and say hello to someone you don’t know. One morning the kids and I went into a local mall to escape the rain. We decided to eat in the food court and my youngest son, Cole, was very drawn to an elderly gentleman eating by himself. Cole even gave him a high-five as we walked past him. After we ordered our breakfast, I decided to introduce ourselves to him. I asked if we could join him for breakfast. We learned that Christopher came to the United States from Ireland in 1953 when he was about 20 years old. He has two kids who he doesn’t get to see very often, and one of his sons even attended my old high school and eventually became the principal for some time. He said it made his day that we stopped to say hello!
    3. Give free hugs. Smiles and kindness don’t cost a thing. A couple years ago, I joined up with a group of friends to give free hugs in downtown Chicago. Armed with our handmade signs and smiles, we must have given out at least a hundred hugs to strangers and it was one of the best feelings in my life! I love to talk about this experience with my kids, and more importantly, what it meant to me to inject positive energy and kindness into the world!

    What are some things you and your family do to spread cheer to loved ones? I’d love to hear in the comments here, and don’t forget to join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #100DaysOfSunshine!

    mom and son cooking in kitchen

    kid biting an orange orange wreath wreath made out of oranges

    kids sharing cuties mandarin orangeskids sharing cuties mandarin orangeskids sharing cuties mandarin orangeskids sharing cuties mandarin orangeskids sharing cuties mandarin oranges

    kids sharing cuties mandarin oranges