Seven Magic Mountains

Driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas isn’t a horrible drive. But it isn’t an amazing drive either. I mean, who digs the LA traffic? Yeah, that was rhetorical. Once you get out of the city, it’s hot, flat, and dusty. You are going through the desert after all. Yes, the rock formations can be cool, but only for so long right? Because they are rocks.

Well color me surprised when John showed me this Instagram of a particular # with vibrantly colored boulders, stacked on top of each other. Did I want to check it out? Um, yes please. It was on our way, and I had never seen anything like it, and it looked like a pretty good photo op if, you ask me, and we are always down for a roadside photo op.

So, we pulled over and saw a ton of cars in a dirt parking lot, off the side of the road, with these incredible neon, rock formations out in the middle of nowhere. According to Seven Magic Mountains the installation may only be up until the end of 2018, so lucky for us we were able to make the pitstop!

Have you heard of, or seen Seven Magic Mountains? Comment with your photos, I’d love to see them!

X O X O,

Ashley

Becoming the Santino’s

I am going to start off by saying, I have no personal experience in having a blended family. You hear stories, I have friends who have done it, and I rarely here how great it is. Then I met to Soon-to-Be Santino’s and I SAW it! I almost cried during this session seeing the love between each and every one of them.

From the beginning I was trying to figure out the family dynamic, because as a photographer you want to capture love, and connection, but you also don’t want it to be fabricated. You want it to be honest, raw, and positive. I asked “So are we a cuddly family”? Little Ellie turned towards me, with a huge smile, and secretly, in semi-slow motion brought her hand up to her chest with a huge “thumbs up”. That was the first laugh of many on our shoot.

Barbara is stunning, with a heart of gold, and working with her to set up this shoot was so smooth. She trusted me from the beginning and I will say that makes such a big difference in how the shoot will go. She was referred to me by Brittney and from the moment we connected it was great. I inquired about wardrobe, because let’s face it, it’s a HUGE part of your shoot, and she had it handled. She is going to be the BEST BONUS Mom EVER! The love she has for Ellie and Aiden warmed my heart. And the most beautiful thing about it, is they love her back equally as much. The photos speak for themselves don’t they?

I am going to drop a truth bomb… not all Dad’s are publicly affectionate, or excited for a stranger to take their photo, or vulnerable enough for a stranger to position them and guide them through facial expressions. That’s just a fact. But universe can you bring me all the dad’s like Justin? The way he led his family through the shoot by his example was awesome to watch.

I met the Santino’s on the day of their shoot. They were referred by someone they trusted, and they trusted me. Barbara, Justin, Aiden, and Ellie oozed love, trust, and vulnerability. They didn’t have any walls I needed to break through, they came ready, and excited. Once the shoot wrapped Miss Ellie decided she needed to be the photographer and she guided the rest of us through facial expressions and poses “be silly”, “act dead” (no clue where she got that one haha). We walked back to the car, hugs were given and we went our separate ways. I’ve spoken to Barbara every day since then.

Santino’s THANK YOU! Thank you for your business, your trust, and your friendship. You are creating an incredible family! I wish you nothing but the absolute best, because you deserve nothing less!

X O X O,

Ashley

 

Warrior Wednesday’s Episodes 1- 6

Well ladies and gentlemen, that happened! The Facebook Live Series Warrior Wednessday’s has been launched! Episodes 1 through 6 are in the books!

In case you missed the past discussions please find them here!

Episode 1: Self-Care and Self-Love

Episode 3: Comparison: Why do we do it?

Episode 4: The Imperfect Woman Campaign

Episode 5: Pursuing your Passion with Shaun Samuels

Episode 6: Asking for Help: How Doing so Could Change your Life

Comment below any takeaways or questions you may have! It’s a discussion and we all have something to learn from one another! And be sure to tune into next week’s episode where Shaun and I will share our first episode as Cohosts! We can’t wait to have you join the discussion!

X O X O,

Ashley

 

Oubre Family- The fastest photoshoot in the History of Ashley Unexpected

I am so happy that my family made time to stop in my beloved Sacramento, on their way from Reno to Santa Rosa on their quick Road trip. Having two little ones make the trek from Texas, to Cali, from Reno to Santa Rosa is not an easy task, but the Oubre family successfully did just that!

Many people see Sacramento as the pit stop on the way to Tahoe. A place to use the restroom, to fill up with gas, stretch your legs, and potentially grab a bite to eat. All of the above are legitimate reasons to stop in Sac. But there are so many more reasons to stay and enjoy this vibrant city. And hopefully one day I can convince them to stay longer, and I will make my family fall in love with Sacramento like I have, one cousin at a time (I successfully converted the Harrower’s AND the Balasek’s).

On the 100+ degree day I had them meet me at Gunther’s Ice Cream Shop right off the freeway for a cold refreshing treat and a lightning fast photoshoot. Last time I saw my cousin Chrissy she didn’t even have her youngest Eli, and Ollie was just about 6 months old. A lot had changed since then so I wanted to commemorate their visit to Sacramento. And strategically planning around the traffic from Reno to Santa Rosa, this was a quick one! It is officially the fastest photoshoot in the history of Ashley Unexpected!

I hope you enjoyed your Ice Cream Pitstop, and I am so glad you made the time and plan to come visit me! Love you all!

X O X O,

Ashley

Tanning Fail or Bronze Goddess?~Stella Body

I have NEVER spray tanned. Never went to a booth, a bed, or a had someone do it. I grew up on the water, so would get tan if I wanted to, but never had the need, or desire to “fake n bake”. Funny enough, so many people from my town did, but I couldn’t get on board.

That was (embarrassingly enough) 15 years ago and now that I am in my 30’s, the thought of laying out in the sun to get that bronze glow is rather terrifying. The damage that can be done to our skin is crazy, so no thank you. Enter my old friend Leah, she grew up with me, and as life would have it we both ended up moving to the Sacramento area. She is a wizard cosmetologist with the cutest Salon Suite in Rocklin, CA called Stella. She truly is a master of her craft so when she mentioned her newest tanning services, Stella Body, for the first time in my life my interest was piqued.

I had some major fears:

  1. I would look orange
  2. Leah would have to see me naked, or in my bathing suit, and I’d have to do some weird yoga so that I wouldn’t have white creases
  3. I would stain my clothes, or my sheets
  4. It would look fake and I would embarrass myself. Walking around town looking like an orangesicle isn’t ideal.

I was able to voice all of these concerns to Leah and not only did she totally understand those concerns, but she has all the knowledge behind her to ease those fears and put me completely at ease.

  1. Orange is not a thing with the VersaSpa because many times the orange comes from over-application, and using lower-quality ingredients. The Versa Spa uses 3 nozzles and voice commands during the session to ensure there isn’t overspray, and the VersaSpa only uses premium, Eco-Certified ingredients and skin softeners that produce the most beautiful tan while making you look and feel younger.
  2. Leah programs the tanning booth from the next room and my perfect tanning cocktail is then sent to the VersaSpa booth. I am in my own spacious private room, with the VersaSpa directing me during my session and with Leah right next door if I need her.
  3. No stains here! With the VersaSpa there is a drying session, so as soon as you are finished with your session you can confidently get dressed and know that you will not stain your car seat, clothes, or sheets. Thank goodness for that!
  4. I want to support my friend’s business obviously, but she, like myself, is a business owner, so it is very important that the product you put out is one you are proud of. Leah knew that I would give her honest feedback, she also knew I was a very tough critic, and had a negative opinion of spray tanning from the get go!

So, how did it go?

I was surprised! I actually had a lot of knowledge about the process before it even began. Leah took the time to ease my fears, and walk me through everything. And as a backup the VersaSpa literally walks you through the process as it’s happening. There were no funky smells, there was a ton of ventilation, and as soon as I stepped out of the tanning booth I could feel my skin was moisturized, but the tan had set. The tan does take some time to process, but you do see a bit of a difference.

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I didn’t tell my friend Matt that I was getting a tan, so when we met for dinner that night.I was going to see if he had noticed. If he did, he wouldn’t have given me so much crap if it looked bad. Honestly, he would have made so much fun of me. Well… He had no clue. He thought I just was out at the pool and got tan. VICTORY!!!!!

I WILL do it again! Will you give it a try? If you do, tell Leah I sent ya 😉

X O X O,

Ashley

Abuse and Healing Together: Warrior Wednesday’s

I come from a long line of strong and determined women. Named after my Great Grandmother, Mary Kathleen Killcoyne, I have always felt a sense of pride in speaking my mind, working hard, and loving as big as I could. Mary Kathleen left Ireland for Ellis Island when she was just about 12 years old, never to see her family again. With her faith in God, she set out to a land unknown.

Her uncle was to pick her up, but he didn’t come. He didn’t come until the last day before little Mary Kathleen would be sent back to Ireland. She made her way out west and worked the fields of the coast to make a living with her husband and 7 children. She worked as a janitor to pay the tuition for Catholic school and that woman never complained of living out of a cardboard box, wearing Coke cans for shoes, or feeling like she didn’t have enough. She had God, a family, and that was more than enough. I got to meet my Great Grandmother, as she lived to be 103. That Irish twinkle in her eye let me know I would be more than alright, if I believed in God, and cherished my family.

So imagine my shame when my life took a few detours along the way. Growing up, I wanted to find a love as strong as my parents, but I looked for it in all the wrong places. Wrong places that brought a slew of abusive relationships, sexually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Through it all, my family never left my side. However, I was so ashamed of my choices, my lack of what I perceived to be, strength, that I hid my first abuse for 7 years.

I am not a licensed therapist, have any crazy certifications, nor am I a wise old owl, but I am a woman who strongly believes, that when positive people come together, there isn’t anything we can’t do. Many years ago, (about 8) I used to upload videos to my Facebook page discussing topics that we as women would face and have an open discussion on how to overcome these challenges. I stopped doing that because I was in a relationship that didn’t like me having such a strong opinion. Though I got support from my family, friends, and followers, my relationship (and his circle of people) liked me to “look pretty, and stand next to” him. Out of respect (insert eye roll) I stopped doing videos, and I tried my best to fit in the mold that his circle wanted me to fit into.

Well, that didn’t last now did it?!

Through the challenges I have faced I feel a strong calling to support people, and shed light on abuse. I love the quote “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that” by Martin Luther King Jr, because it’s true. I protected the people who abused me, and I hurt myself through keeping the abuse in the dark. With it being a secret I couldn’t get help, I lived through Hell alone, and I don’t want that for anyone!

With all of that being said, I am so happy to announce that I will be airing my first episode of my new Facebook LIVE Show “Warrior Wednesdays” this Wednesday June 6, 2018! It is a space for support, community, and lessons learned through overcoming some of life’s most difficult situations.  I am not a professional, I am not perfect, but I do have a voice, I am strong, so I might as well do my best to shed light on something that affects so many people.

Together we can overcome anything and take our power back. I hope that you tune in and join the conversation.

X O X O,

Ashley

Caitlin~ A Goddess, Inside and Out!

Referrals are THE BEST! Most of my photography clients have either grown up with me, or are a referral. When it comes to Glamour and Boudoir sessions a referral can go a long way, however, many times more research is needed. I mean, you are going to be going to someone’s studio, spending time getting your hair and make up done, then shooting, so if you don’t vibe, that can be 2-3 hrs of uncomfortableness.

As I get older I know that I can vibe on some level with just about anyone, especially if they trust me to do a shoot with them. On the same note, it’s a little rare that I am so connected to someone that it feels like I’ve known them my whole life, and I am laughing, more than I am pressing that shutter button.

Well, let me introduce you to the angelic and hilarious Caitlin! She was referred to me from my best referral source, Kristin, and within 24 hrs, Caitlin was booked, with a signed contract and the retainer fee paid. I mean, favorite type of client right there! Am I right?

As soon as Caitlin and her girlfriend Amanda stepped out of the car I knew I was in for a fun day. From picking outfits, to chatting as I did Caitlin’s hair, these girls were my type of girls! Fun, open, supportive, hilarious, driven, educated, and trusting. Getting ready and shooting lasted for a total of about 2.5 hrs, but I think we all hung out for about 4, just because we were having so much fun!

Caitlin-32

So thank you Kristin, for sending Caitlin my way. Not only did we have a great time during the shoot, but we became fast friends. And as the story continues, thank you Caitlin for sending Jenna my way 😉 Stay tuned for that session!

X O X O,

Ashley

 

Brenna and Nick get Engaged!

I love Engagements! People in love, and so excited for the future. That excitement is contagious. Whenever I am chosen to capture someone’s special memories I am so grateful! I met Brenna and Nick through John. He’s known Brenna since she was in high school and so see her grow up and meet such a special guy in Nick has been really exciting.

I think we found an amazing location with so many different backdrops to set the scene for this adventurous, fashionable, and loving couple!

Thanks for being game with my vision (awesome hiking abilities you guys) and being so open to the process! You guys take amazing direction and I hope you guys cherish these images for years to come! You guys are adorable and I can’t wait to see what this life has in store for you two!

Congratulations again and thank you so much for choosing me to capture this moment in time for you two!

X O X O,

Ashley

Whole 30 Approved Products

I wanted to share a few of our favorite Whole 30 approved products because it really helped me in a pinch to make sure we had food and didn’t fall off the Whole 30 wagon when I was pressed for time!

Without further ado let’s get to it!

  1. RX Bars– These protein bars are really good, as they only have a few ingredients. Now not all bars are Whole 30 approved but through my research I believe that these ones are : Mixed Berry, Blueberry, Coconut Chocolate, Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Sea Salt
  2. La Croix– You can’t have alcohol, juices, milk etc, ad sometimes water can get boring, so have some amazing La Croix. Put a lime or lemon in it with some ice in a high ball glass and it will feel like you’re having fancy cocktail
  3. Primal Kitchen– Salad dressings have a lot of added junk if you’ve ever taken a look at the ingredients. You can simply throw on some balsamic vinegar, but if that gets boring check out some salad dressings from Primal Kitchen. The Greek is my favorite!
  4. Nutpods– Say bye bye to your Vanilla Lattes, and yummy creamers in your coffee. If you can drink your coffee black, go for it. However, I cannot. You can find NutPods at Whole Foods where the alternative creamers are.
  5. Bullet Brain Octane– This was amazing, so amazing I am still using it. I added this to my coffee every morning and it truly helped me with my productivity. The brain fog that some people experience was nonexistent with me. I’m sure it was a combination of things, but the way I felt was so great, I don’t want to go back! This is now a staple in our house!
  6. Aidell’s Chicken Apple Sausage– Many sausages, deli meats, and bacon have a lot of adde sugar, fillers, and other nasty stuff we don’t want to talk about. But not Aidell! This is a great addition to your eggs in the morning, but also wonderful in a stir fry!

So there you have it! My “Must Have” products to keep me on track, when I lose track of time but don’t want to fall off the wagon!

What are some of your amazing finds on the Whole 30 journey?

X O X O,

Ashley

PS This isn’t sponsored post, but I do use VigLink (a blog monetizing tool) so if anything is purchased through this post I may or may not receive a small commission.

Whole 30- Our Results

Hey guys! I am going to roll out my Whole 30 series starting with my results. Why? Because we want to know if  something will work before we try it.

If you are unfamiliar with Whole 30 be sure to learn about the program here. This site has so much information and is really helpful if you want to take on the challenge of Whole 30.

I have to confess that my results weren’t simply from doing Whole 30. I worked out through out the 30 days so it wasn’t all from healthy eating. With that being said, many people do have success simply by changing the way they eat. Each person is different so you take a pulse with your own body and see if you’d like add working out to your eating program. Whole 30 isn’t necessarily a “lose weight” diet, but losing weight can be a byproduct of changing the way you eat. We did!

I do have pictures, but since I was a high school teacher, I don’t really feel like that would be very appropriate. I mean how horrifying if any former students stumbled upon Miss Cook’s Before and After transformation pictures. I hope you guys can understand.

John lost 10 lbs. I lost 5.8 lbs, and a total of 7.5 inches. John didn’t have much to lose to be honest and like many men, he can simply cut out bread, or alcohol and drop weight. Me, and many women on the other hand, have to work really hard to drop any sort of weight. So when I took my measurements and stepped on the scale I was rather pleased.

Before After Difference
Chest

34

33

-1

Waist

27.5

26.25

-1.25

Hips

35.75

35

-0.75

Butt

39.75

39

-0.75

Right Arm

11

10.75

-0.25

Left Arm

10.5

10.25

-0.25

Right Thigh

23.75

22.5

-1.25

Left Thigh

23

22

-1

Right Calf

14

13.5

-0.5

Left Calf

13.75

13.25

-0.5

Total

233

225.5

-7.5

The fact that I lost 1.25 inches in my waist and right thigh was enough for this program to be worth it for me. I am very happy with the inches lost!

Stay tunes to my must have products, favorite recipes, and tips for success! Have you done Whole 30? What were your successes and where did you find yourself struggling? I’d love to celebrate your accomplishment with you!

X O X O,

Ashley