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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?

Lauren Ashley Photography arizonapinthisLauren Ashley Photography arizonapinthisLauren Ashley Photography arizonapinthisLauren Ashley Photography arizonapinthisLauren Ashley Photography arizonapinthisLauren Ashley Photography arizonapinthisLauren Ashley Photography arizonapinthisLauren Ashley Photography arizonapinthisLauren Ashley Photography arizonapinthis

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  • Joli S......... Dipkiss Travels - Stunning photoshoot! Love the dramatic red against the desert backdrop!

    Just got back from a trip to the tropics (Philippines)… Now, we’re back to the freezing East Coast, and already missing the beach! Can’t wait for spring and summer to come already.ReplyCancel

bliss tulle Juliet skirtpinthis

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.

Odyssey Chicagopinthis

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

Odyssey Chicagopinthis

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

Minted christmas cardpinthis

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 truckpinthis

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 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.

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  • Rita - Wow all the pictures are absolutely amazing. Nothing like capturing beautiful moments with great quality. Kids are so adorable.

    Rita | http://www.styleroundtheclock.comReplyCancel

  • Cathy - These family photos are so pretty! Your kids are adorable!!


  • Natalia Loren - First of all what a beautiful family! This “Americana nostalgia” theme is perfection. I’ve actually been spending some time on Minted since I have to do some shower invitations, so I’m glad you recommended it as a photographer, it means I’m on the right track. Happy Holidays xReplyCancel

  • Kachet of The Kachet Life - Your family is beautiful!! I’ve used Minted for my holiday cards the past two years and they have been fabulous.ReplyCancel

  • JoJo - OMG your family is so beautiful and adorable! You must be so proud to send out these Christmas cards!ReplyCancel

  • Anna English - Your cards turned out AMAZING! One year I”ll get around to doing this… LOLReplyCancel

  • Whit - love these family photos!

    Britt+Whit ReplyCancel

  • Ruth Ridley - Your cards came out amazing! You have such a beautiful family!ReplyCancel

  • Meghan - Your cards are just too cute! I love it!!! I gotta check out the wax seals!ReplyCancel

  • sarah tripp - Your cards turned out so cute! Love the wax sealReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - These are the most adorable family photos I’ve seen so far this holiday season. Your fam is precious!!!ReplyCancel

  • Morgan - This shoot looks so awesome! Looks like your boys were having a lot of fun!

    How 2 Wear It [] http://how2wearit.comReplyCancel

  • Taylor Aube - What an adorable holiday shoot, love these cards!ReplyCancel

  • megan - such beautiful family photos! <3

    xo meganReplyCancel

  • Ashley Zeal - You guys are too cute! Love the truck!!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley DTKAustin - These photos are absolutely adorable!! I love how your cards came out!ReplyCancel

  • Cristina - You have the most beautiful family! I love the Christmas cards that you got this year. They are so elegant!



  • Hannah - What a beautiful family you have! I absolutely love your skirt by the way:) So fun for a holiday shoot!

    xoxo, HannahReplyCancel

  • Sara - These photos are so so stunning! We got our cards from Minted, too!ReplyCancel

  • Amy Loochtan - Oh my word, what a beautiful and happy family. These turned out just gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • Annette Dattilo - Love the detail and thought you put into your cards. We have kind of slacked the last few years on card sending, but this gets me in the mood to pick it back up next year. Your cards are gorgeous.ReplyCancel

  • LuxMommy - You have the cutest family and the card turned out amazing. Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • dawn - these pictures are adorable! You’re family is too cute!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - These are such fabulous family photos! I LOVE Minted and how your cards turned out.


  • Laura Leigh - Oh your photos are the sweetest!!! Love the cute backdrop. Cards look amazing as well!

    xo Laura Leigh

  • Lindsay - what a beautiful family you have! I love all of your photosReplyCancel

  • Madeline - Aww these are so cute! Love how they turned out!ReplyCancel

  • Danielle - These photos are amazing! You have such a beautiful family!!

    Keep Sparkling✨
    Sparkling Southerner
    Find me at : InstagramReplyCancel