Soap Distillery - Handmade Soap & Bath Products from Chicago, IL - Passion Project

A while ago I started a Passion Project that involved photographing my favorite local female-owned businesses in Chicago whose products or services I was obsessed with. I wanted to showcase these amazing women, their work environment, their products/art and how they operate in a day-to-day basis. I wanted to do this because I love photography, obviously, but I love shooting for me when there is no pressure and I can do my thing and document exactly how I see. It keeps my creative juices flowing and helps me get out of a rut. It’s also a way for me to give back to the female business community of Chicago, and to let you all know about these wonderful souls. However - life, business & client sessions crept in and I couldn’t do as many as I physically wanted to… Yet! Thank goodness slow season is approaching :)

Introducing Soap Distillery

My list of business owners and places is long and I’ve only been able to do two of these projects so far! If you like cocktails, liquor, beer or spirits, you’re in luck! The first up is Soap Distillery and I think you must check them out. Their products are insanely smell-able, make you feel great & want a cocktail and are SO fun to read. Danielle Martin is the face behind Soap Distillery, and was inspired by booze, to make her creations. The first time I encountered her was at the Show of Hands show last November in Chicago. The first item I saw was a soap called Beer & Cigarettes and I wanted to gag because it sounded awful! But, alas, it intrigued the hell out of me and I picked it up and was blown away! The smell was insane, as were all of the items I smelled that evening. I was laughing at all of the names of the products and the descriptions. This chick is talented in her product-making, yes, but her copywriting is clever, witty and so fun. Never will you be bored reading a body wash bottle again!

Small Batches - No Hangovers (And great copywriting!)

Her products are hand-made in small batches and use real and natural ingredients. And they’re so pretty! The soaps that have flower petals in them are my favorite to shoot because of their beauty. I’m so excited to introduce you to Soap Distillery.

Seriously, go check them out now! Get a jump on your holiday shopping or get yourself some bath salts to soak away the stress from the upcoming holiday shopping season! The Rosé is my favorite! Or scrub the day away with the Iced Coffee scrub - it smells like a jacked-up Girl Scout Thin Mint cookie! It’s my favorite thing in the SD world! I also can’t live without the Lavender Paloma lip balm. And guys, they just launched their fall scents and the Pumpkin IPA is the bomb dot com! I normally don’t hop on the pumpkin train in the fall with PSL’s and all the other overly-sweet junk, but this is so good!

Want to be a part of the project or have a product/service that you HIGHLY recommend? Give me a shout!

A Quick Glimpse into My Paris Adventure - A Photographer's Visual Journal

I wonder if I’m alone when I say that editing & processing client images is much easier than doing my own! Every time I travel somewhere, I (shockingly!) take a lot of photos. How could I not?! But coming home and processing them is so daunting to me that I put it off for a while, sometimes months. Because unlike a client session, I don’t NEED to get to them ASAP! I think I need a little separation from them, and I also enjoy looking at them more once I’ve had a little space from my photos. It’s kind of like I get to go on the journey all over again once I DO actually edit them.

So when I took a bucket-list trip to Paris this past spring, I took the most photos I’ve ever taken in one place. Yay me, but boo me at the same time. I FINALLY got through them all, and sent some off to my lab to become a printed album, and now I can share some of my favorites with you. This post is jam-packed with thumbnail photos because there are way too many to do an original blog post with. So this is my quick glimpse of what I was inspired by in Paris, to share with all that have been asking me how my trip was. While I appreciated all of the big museums, buildings and vastness, my favorite moments were small, and I fell in love with photographing the food and all of the little details. I like to tell stories through my photos, rather than talking about it, so here goes. Springtime in Paris was magically beautiful, to me.


Notre Dame Fire & Yellow Jacket Protesters

I was in Paris two days after the fire of Notre Dame and I was quite bummed because it was on my list of places to go while in Paris. But it was still quite the sight to see, and an epic time to be in Paris none-the-less. I was also there on one of the worst weekends when the Yellow Jacket protesters took over and the center of the city was shut down. Streets were blocked and public transportation in the center was not an option. Getting kicked off the subway abruptly, and not knowing why or what is being said or where to go, was quite the adventure. For the first time in probably 15 years, I used an actual map to get around a city that I knew nothing about!

Highlights: Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe, Airbnb & Crepe Man

My favorite touristy obligation was viewing the Eiffel Tower at night from the Arc de Triomphe. That view! And seeing the lights dance on the tower for a few minutes was amazing. Got there at just the right time as I didn’t even know the tower had a light show!

I stayed in two different Airbnb’s in two different parts of the city so I could get more exposure. Both places were far from the tourist-y areas because I wanted to feel like I was living in Paris among the Parisians. Both places were adorable. One was very modern and updated but very quaint while the other was the apartment of two young college students who had made the place into an amazing old-charm home. So inviting and welcoming, just like my host, who was such a warm & friendly helpful guide.

My very last day, I was able to see my favorite American-turned-Parisian photographer friend Brittany and we spent the morning photographing each other. We explored part of the city, went to the Jardin du Luxembourg and ended the day with the best crepe I have ever had, made by a most charming man. I highly recommend his crepe stand if you’re ever in Paris. Ask me for the name and the arrondissement he is in :)

Lastly, Versailles was beautiful but I really only explored the gardens. It was Easter Sunday and everyone in the world was there to see so the lines were hours-long, standing in blasting sun. Nature is more of my jam anyway, but seeing the outside and how vast it is was an experience.

Cheers, friends. I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Paris via my eyes!

Strawberry Peach Rhubarb Tartlets - Chicago Food Photographer

So many people asked for the recipe for these sweet little tartlets so I figured I’d just do a blog post on them! I kind of made up my own thing, as I’m not one to really follow recipes strictly, and I am definitely not known to use exact measurements. I wing things when I cook and bake - life’s just easier that way for me!

I’m also thee messiest person in the kitchen and I am horrible at remembering to take photos of all of the steps, so this isn’t your traditional food blog post but that’s ok because I’m not a food blogger, right?! I just document it - my recipes are a hot mess and follow no protocol. Ever! It’s kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure deal whenever I’m in the kitchen and that’s where I thrive. You’ve been warned.


The Key is to Use Fresh Fruit!

The fresher the better and it’s currently strawberry AND peach season. Even found some fresh rhubarb at the grocery, and although I’d never used rhubarb with peaches before, I was amazed at how lovely this tasted. The bitterness of the rhubarb blends so well with the sweetness of the peaches & strawberries.


Jazz it up with Your Spices

I used nutmeg, cinnamon, ground ginger, agave and salt. Also used lemon zest, coconut sugar and a bit of orange extract (my favorite secret weapon in the kitchen!)


Cheat - Use Pre-Made Dough

I used Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells and it made life simple. I baked them like the package said, and then scooped out the top so I could add the fruit filling. I then put the “top” back on over the fruit filling and baked a few minutes longer to seal the deal. Like a little fruit sandwich snack. Let cool for a while and then top with greek yogurt, whipped topping or ice cream. I garnished with mint & thin slices of peaches & strawberries. Finally, devour. The best cheat you can make, though, is to find someone to make it FOR you while you just get to sit back and take in all of that summery flavor. At least that’s what I would love for someone to do for me…



Ingredients - This only makes 6 pastry cups so if you want more, double or triple the recipe!

1 package Pepperidge Farm Pastry Shells

1 longer stalk of rhubarb - sliced

1 cup strawberries - sliced

1 peach - sliced

Sugar - I used coconut, just a bit (maybe a quarter cup) because I also used some agave nectar for sweetness.

Agave nectar - Maybe 2 Tablespoons. I don’t measure & there’s already so much sweetness in the fruit- don’t judge!

A couple dashes each of cinnamon, nutmeg & ground ginger.

Half of a lemon - zested

A couple squirts of orange extract

Yogurt, Whipped Cream or Ice Cream for topping. (I used Lemon Noosa yogurt - so tangy!)

Strawberries or peaches - sliced for garnish

Steps to mouth-watering goodness

  1. Bake the pastry cups according to package. Like the package states, once done baking, scoop off the top and inside part. But don’t toss those beauties & keep your oven on after these are done baking!!! I used mine at the end for a little extra sweet crunch on top.

  2. In a large saucepan, combine all of your sliced fruit with all other ingredients except the toppings (ie yogurt/whipped cream). (You could put it all in a bowl and stir just to transfer it to the saucepan but I am an energy efficient baker and this saves a step and a dirty dish!) Stir really well and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium-low heat and cook the fruit down til it’s “saucy” but not too runny. I think it was about 10 minutes.

  3. Once all good and saucy, spoon the filling into your hole-y pastry cups. I added mine to the top but not overflowing. Replace the tops of the cup that I told you not to discard, and bake another 5 or so minutes to seal the deal.

  4. Remove from oven and let cool. If you can’t wait to devour, add your topping of choice and eat shortly after out of the oven when it’s not so-hot-it-will-burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth hot.

Enjoy. If you liked this, and make it, tag @courtneylaperphoto on IG and show me your creations.