A Six Week Family Trip to Nashville, Tallahassee, Orlando, Savannah, and Washington DC

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I remember sitting inside in early March last year for the uhm-teenth day in a row and getting stir crazy from cold weather and no sunshine. I needed a daydream to lift me out of the cold weather dreariness, so I started looking up houses in Florida on Airbnb. Jeff and I had floated the “snow bird” idea before, but it had never worked out.

This time, I got my parents on board (my mom was set to retire from teaching, so she’d be free to hang out in Florida for a month), and we put money down on a five bedroom house in the Orlando area before we could talk ourselves out of it—we had officially made plans to spend a month in Florida with my parents, my brother, my Grandma and our family of four.

The plans were made so long ago that they felt like they’d never actually happen—during the time in between making plans and actually going, we bought a sailboat, did a ton of sailing and went to Costa Rica.

I was a little nervous about going, honestly, because even though I’d have my parents there to help out (my dad did go back to Michigan for a bit to work, but he was there for about half of the trip), I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about being with my girls every second of every day. I’m used to having a lot of focused time every week while they’re at daycare.

We set out late on February 7—the plan was to drive as far as Indianapolis while the girls were sleeping. Zel fell asleep soon after we hit the road, but we may have celebrated our road trip victory a little too early. Arden decided that she didn’t want to sleep, and she only wanted to shout, “Get out!” for hours as she tried to get out of her carseat.

Day two was much smoother thanks to a tired little midnight bedtimer, so we made it to the Nashville area without much trouble. We stopped there for the night to catch up with Jeff’s aunt Missy and her family (sorry Missy—why didn’t we all get a photo together?!), and then we set out for Tallahassee where my brother lives. After eight hours of car travel, our girls were so excited to get out of that car and see their Florida cousins. We all got ice cream, and the girls ran off their energy before heading to the hotel. We had a fun weekend exploring Florida State’s campus and giving the girls some much needed cousin time before heading out on the final four hour drive to the Orlando area.

The Florida house was everything we hoped it would be (except for no real desk for Jeff—he worked remotely the whole time we were there, and he had to do his best with countertops and tables). The back of the house opened right up to a private patio with a plunge pool, and the neighborhood pool had a lazy river and twisty water slide/splash area for the kids to play in. We went around that lazy river and down that water slide more times than I can count. I would hold Arden to go down the slide, and every time we got to the bottom, she’d shout, “Again!” At one point, she was so tired that she was practically sleeping on my shoulder down the slide, and still she managed to mutter, “Again.” If you’re looking for a place to stay near Disney World, we definitely enjoyed Windsor at Westside (as long as you’ll have a car).

The trip did have a few hiccups. I decided to take the girls to Disney World on my own one day (which was actually fairly hiccup free—the girls were really into it and stayed on their best behavior; they also thought the People Mover was a really crazy roller coaster after riding it, so their expectations were low enough to set up a pretty easy day). I was so exhausted when we all got home that I decided to head to bed early. That turned out to be a good thing—I ended up waking up around one in the morning to an ambulance ride and a few hours at the hospital with one of our house guests (All was fine, but we were definitely tired—and major props to my mom for staying so calm and taking fast action while there were multiple medical issues going on at the same time in our household. Mom, you’re amazing.).

I also finally convinced my parents to let me care for my brother so they could go out without worrying about his care—he has a Metachromatic Leukodystrophy and has a feeding tube that I’ve always been incredibly intimidated by. After convincing my parents to teach me the basics of his care before heading out, his pump ended up throwing an error. My parents (have I mentioned how amazing they are?) sprung into action and worked out a way to have a new pump delivered within hours. It was definitely an eye opening experience to see what they do for my brother every single day. It’s really incredible.

And then our third hiccup—we pulled the girls out of daycare to make the trip, and we found out a few weeks in that Arden lost her spot at daycare. That caused me so much stress, and I swear I lost three days of focus just trying to call around and figure out back up options, but it all worked out in the end, and the girls just started back at their school this week. It was awesome to hear everyone shout their names as they entered the room—I think they felt so at home with that big warm welcome.

And we did have some amazing days at Disney World. We went to a character breakfast the first Saturday that we were there, where Arden was hilarious terrified of all of the characters. I didn’t take my professional camera to Disney, but I took my video camera along and got some fun clips of Zel at the Bippity Boppity Boutique, where they transformed her into a princess. I’ll have to share that video when I get around to putting it all together. In the meantime, here are a few highlights. Scroll down to see a video from “a day in the life” in Florida.

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We planned to head out to watch a rocket launch on Jeff’s birthday, but we all got a bit lazy about it on the day of, so Jeff and I walked down to the pool to watch it from afar. I know it doesn’t look like much here, but it was still really cool to see!

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After we left Florida, we stopped in Savannah for a night and spent the morning exploring the city before heading on to the Washington DC area.

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Jeff does own shirts other than his NASA shirts, but it’s pretty clear that these are his favorites (that and pineapple shorts). And so you don’t think he’s just an incredible nerd who wears NASA shirts every day, he does actually work on projects for NASA, so he’s an actually an incredible nerd who wears NASA shirts every day and works on projects for them.

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We spent the work week in the DC area while Jeff worked out of his office there. I spent a few days trying to explore old favorite spots from the time when Jeff and I lived there, but it was cold, and the girls weren’t overjoyed by any of it, so I finally gave up and took them to a huge indoor playground for the last day.

After six nights sharing a single hotel room as a family, we were all so ready to be home (bedtime is tough when Arden knows we’re all still up), so we drove eight hours straight to get home on Friday. It was such a nice feeling to walk into our own house after being gone for so long. I never really noticed the smell of our house, but I absolutely noticed it when I walked it. It’s nice to be home.

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A Romantic Spring Wedding at Wellers Carriage House in Saline, Michigan

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I love photographing weddings at venues I’ve never been to before. I feel this big ball of creative energy as I take in each new corner of the place and explore the way the light plays across the scene. That said, oh my gosh—I would happily photograph every wedding at Wellers Carriage House in Saline. Being a part of these Wellers Carriage House wedding photos has been such a dream, and I’m excited to get back there later this year for Kait and Zach’s fall wedding.

I was the solo photographer on this wedding, which was no trouble at all with the easygoing pace of a wedding that’s all in one place and a relaxed couple like Jessica and Matt. Jessica got ready at the Hospitality House, and then we headed over to Wellers for a first look along the most perfect path of trees budding for Spring (their wedding was May 6).

wellers carriage house hospitality house outside
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wellers carriage house hospitality house inside
wellers carriage house hospitality house inside
wellers carriage house hospitality house inside
Wellers Carriage House in Saline; mom puts boutonniere on the groom
Wellers Carriage House in Saline; first look on the path in Spring
Wellers Carriage House in Saline; portraits in the garden
Wellers Carriage House in Saline; bride and groom portraits in the gardens
Wellers Carriage House in Saline; portraits on the path in the gardens
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Wellers Carriage House in Saline; ceremony setting
Wellers Carriage House in Saline; ceremony site
Wellers Carriage House in Saline; ceremony photos
Wellers Carriage House in Saline; ceremony photos
Wellers Carriage House wedding photos in Saline; ceremony photos
Wellers Carriage House wedding photos in Saline; ceremony photos
Wellers Carriage House wedding photos in Saline; ceremony photos
Wellers Carriage House wedding photos in Saline; ceremony photos
Wellers Carriage House wedding photos in Saline; ceremony photos
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer
wellers carriage house wedding photos, Saline, Michigan by Allie Siarto, Michigan wedding photographer

How We Style Our Wedding Album Into Our Home

Anyone who knows me knows that I spend way too much time thinking about how to keep my favorite memories at my fingertips. I spent about an hour last night writing letters to each of my daughters in a little notebook that I keep for each of them, and I’ve been taking one second of video every single day to compile into my yearly “One Second A Day” videos. And as a photographer, I’ve gone all in on highlighting our most cherished memories through photographs in our home.

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But one piece that we put extra effort into both highlighting and protecting is our wedding album. Our album sits on an open bookshelf in our family room, and as our girls get older and taller, it’s important for us to keep the album protected from sticky, curious little hands.

We put the album in a custom engraved bamboo album box last year. It really completes the look in the display—the album looks great standing alone among other books and items (we just topped it off with a little faux succulent for interest).

In general, we try to add levels to our open bookshelf to give it balance. The bottom shelf has three big baskets filled with toys so that the girls can grab toys and put them away as they play (or more likely, dump them out and leave them—but at least they’re easy to put away). We mixed up the shelves with stacked books topped with a variety of photos and plants, and our top shelf is dedicated to our yearly memory boxes to keep all of our favorite photos and small keepsakes from each year (handprints, a few sample art pieces from the girls, hospital bracelets from when they were born, etc.).

And if you’re looking for a little help mixing sentimental items with a stylish look in your home, check out the interior design company, Havenly. They have some really affordable packages to help you with the interior design of your home (especially for those newlyweds out there who are just starting to design their homes together).

Want a custom bamboo album box for your own home?

And now for some exciting news—I’m rolling out a new branch of my photography studio to help more people get custom keepsakes in their homes. I’m now offering custom designed bamboo boxes, memory boxes, albums and framed prints to everyone, whether you’ve worked with me as a photography client in the past or not.

You can check out more details about custom wall art and keepsakes right here.

how to style an open bookshelf

I just realized that Jeff snuck his lego sailboat onto the top shelf—ha.

looking at a wedding album from an open bookshelf

bamboo album box on a bookshelf

Thanks to Havenly for asking me to highlight a sentimental item in my home and inspiring this post.

Create A Gorgeous Gallery Wall in 3 Easy Steps

Wall Design Three Easy Steps

I’ve been offering complimentary wall design for all of my A&Co. couples, families and seniors for about two years now—I realized that it can be so hard to figure out which images to print, how many to print and how to display them in a way that pulls the whole room together.

So I took a bit of inspiration from Joanna, Chip, Drew and Jonathan (a few of my HGTV favorites), and I started using a tool that lets clients see a digital version of the final look before choosing a final layout.

Here’s what you need to do to see exactly what art will look like to scale on your own walls:

Three Steps to a Gorgeous Wall Gallery

Step One: Tape an 8.5×11″ sheet of paper to any wall that you want to see designed. Take a photo straight on (or as straight on as possible). Try to capture the full wall if you can so we can see how framed art will balance across the space. Email me all of the wall photos. If you think you might want mix in other photos from prior sessions or milestones (like the example above), you can use wetransfer.com to send up to ten other photos.

Step Two: I will set up design ideas for you in my wall design tool. Check out a real live version of the wall designer right here (note: I can’t take credit for the photos on this wall design—Sheila was a past A&Co. bride who lives out of state, and I was helping her put together some ideas from a mix of recent family sessions).

Step Three: Choose your favorite design. You’re welcome to note the print sizes and order prints only to frame later (I do recommend my styrene mounted prints to avoid bending, warping or dimpling over time in the frame), or I offer full service framing with seven frame style to choose from.

When your frames are ready, you’ll pick them up in East Lansing, and you’ll have access to the original designs to guide how you hang the frames on your walls. Voila—designing wall galleries has never been so easy.

frame styles
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