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!

Chicago 3-Year Anniversary - What I Learned From Being Cracked Open

I’m sitting in a coffee shop called Sip of Hope in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago, on the brink of my third anniversary of calling this city home. I can’t believe I just typed that and also cannot believe how it feels like I JUST got here. So much has changed and things are so different than I thought they would be from when I first moved here. This post really has nothing to do with my photography but more of a vulnerable post on how I ended up here. I’ve never exposed my heart as much as I’m about to do and I’m terrified, but not as terrified as I am of living an unauthentic life.

My heart is bursting, my eyes on the brink of over-flowing with ever-present happy tears about to spill onto my cheeks, and I’m full of gratitude for this moment. The premise of this coffee shop is “It’s OK to Not Be OK” and never has that been more fitting to me. I came here 3.5 years ago, but my official year 3 is in 3 days, and I was so hopeful for a fresh start. In hindsight, I was running from things that had left me feeling broken in Wisconsin. I was cracked open, lost, sad, empty and feeling hopeless before I moved here. Then I moved here, and to say it was hard is an understatement. So hard, despite my pretty Instagram feed. Exciting at first, yes, and new, beautiful, incredible & amazing. But it was challenging. Turns out I was still cracked open, lost, sad, empty and feeling hopeless - but in a city where I knew about 3 people, one of them being a toddler! Once the newness faded, the things I was running from eventually ended up catching up with me in full force and what did I want to do again? You got it - Run! Flee! Go back home to familiarity? Go somewhere new? I didn’t know but I knew in my heart that running didn’t seem right, and that I had to look DEEP within. Know what the best part about being cracked open is? That’s where all of the light gets in within. 

I was a small-town, afraid-of-everything girl that never took chances, always followed the rules (and other people) and lived for others’ approval before I moved here. I was always looking for someone or something else to fill me up. I remember turning 30 and waking up miserable, completely baffled as to why I was so unhappy. I left a comfortable but unfulfilling relationship I was in and started on the path of an unintentional mission of self-discovery. I was 30 and had NO idea who I was and why I did the things that I did or didn’t do. I didn’t realize those first few years of my 30’s would be trying to navigate discovering myself, by myself, and trying to find my place in the world doing what I finally figured out what I was born to do. I felt like a late-bloomer weirdo that didn’t belong anywhere! Can anyone else relate?! It wasn’t until my 33rd year, just before 34, that my soul was shattered to the core and I was jolted to life. I realized I had not been living, but just getting by. I kept getting stuck in the same comfortable & safe situations, but m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e, and I felt like I had to make a huge change in order to see some progress with my life and business. I thought a move to a bigger city was the answer so I went on a “city-tour” across the states to see where I wanted to go. I initially thought NYC would be the most exciting but eventually decided on Chicago (which wasn’t even on my radar) when I found out my baby sister was pregnant with her first baby. I didn’t want to be NYC-far for this, and from the rest of my family, so I packed up and headed to Chicago. 

I’ve spent the last few years searching. Searching mostly outside of me, and still looking for that validation and approval. Turns out, in the year of 2019 at the bottom of a dark hole, I came to the realization that the only person I ever needed that from was me. WOW. I had to let that sink in. It’s not a concept I hadn’t heard before, it just didn’t really settle into my heart and get cozy until the present. What I’ve discovered is way more golden than I ever could have hoped for. Which gives me even more hope for what’s ahead for me. I feel like I have grown and stretched myself so much more than I ever thought possible. 

People came into my life to teach me lessons; the good, the bad and especially the ugly. I’ve had to let go of people that I truly wanted to hold onto, and walk away from things that just weren’t a good fit for me and my future. Tough work for a recovering people-pleaser! Some of those lessons were repeated to me over and over and over until I was finally able to let go of the pain and recognize what I was supposed to learn from it. It’s like the Universe was clubbing me repeatedly in the form of relationship & life lessons, and often with the same textbook until I finally got it. There were days I wanted to give up, days that I just couldn’t grasp why I hurt so much. I used to feel shame in admitting this darkness within me, but when I bring light to it, the darkness isn’t so heavy and I have found that so many other people are going through something also.

If I’ve learned anything the last few years it’s that life is about growing and learning & I hope I never stop. Getting to know me, the real me, has been the greatest adventure of my life and I am so thankful for all of the heartbreak, loss, sadness and grief that it took to get me here. Life has a way of teaching you what you need to know, at exactly the right time.

I’m proud of me. I say it again to really reinforce to myself. I’m SO proud of me and that’s never been an easy thing to accept or admit out loud to anyone else. I am loving me, and my big gooey heart that feels EVERYTHING, and I’m learning to love the dark parts too. The beautiful girl that is love, that lives on sunshine, documenting moments and dancing. I don’t want to hide in the shadows of life anymore and I refuse to settle and live a life where I’m not lit up.

I said this had nothing to do with my photography but now as I’m reflecting, I guess it does in a way. I think by opening up my heart and being on this journey of finding myself, my work has grown and become stronger, just like me. It takes courage to shoot from the heart, and also to show your heart to the world. I have to put myself out there in order for people to be able to open up to me, and let me into their lives. For me, photography is all about relationships and trust. I guess that goes for life, too! When I’m shooting, I feel like I can conquer the world; I feel home.

I don’t think I have everything figured out; I think it’s a lifelong process of discovering & rediscovering yourself, and I’m learning to trust in the timing and the journey & believe that life is happening FOR me. But I’m absolutely certain I am where I belong. I’m grateful for every experience (even the bad) and every person (especially the hurtful) that has brought me to me.

I hope that if you’re still reading this far, that maybe I can inspire or be the kick in the pants that you need to follow your own dreams. And that you can be proud of you too. It’s really OK to not be OK, and to have dark times. It’s the getting through those times and finding the golden moments of truth that make us stronger.



I mentioned Sip of Hope above and you should check them out. They’re the world’s first coffee shop where 100% of proceeds support proactive suicide prevention and mental health education. Something we need more of in this world. Hang in there, friends. We’re all in this together.

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{All cell phone photos in this post}