Atlanta Food Walks

(photo courtesy of Atlanta Food Walks)

For Christmas, my mom was given a really fun, thoughtful gift from our family friend –  tickets to Atlanta Food Walks, a walking food tour through downtown Atlanta. Our friend asked if I could join mom for the outing, so I happily obliged. 🙂


We met at Paschal’s and our lovely tour guide, Ashley, started off with some history about Atlanta and the Civil Rights Movement. Did you know that Paschal’s is the unofficial headquarters of the CRM? She and our guide-in-training shared so many interesting stories about the city’s history, much of which tied in with food and the restaurants we would be visiting. i won’t spoil any more tidbits for anyone who might want to take this tour, but I will share more photos, because of course I took some at almost every stop.

(photo by our tour guide, Ashley)

We had the most delicious, moist and crispy fried chicken at Paschal’s (which was Dr. Martin Luther King’s favorite, and I can see why), yams, chicken gravy, and dressing. Even after going to seven restaurants/food stands, the chicken was definitely one of the most popular items among our tour group.


Smoke Ring, which we’d actually been to once a few years ago, served up a large plate of BBQ samples and a strawberry lemonade moonshine cocktail. Mom tried pork belly for the first time, and I think everyone cleaned their plates at this stop.



(photo by our tour guide, Ashley)

We walked a couple miles to Arden’s Garden and tasted a couple juices as well as “cheesy” kale chips. I also bought some Fuzzy Kisses… any guesses as to what those are?

Sweet Auburn Curb Market was our last stop, which included 4 food stand “tastes” — Grindhouse Killer Burgers, Just Add Honey (a boutique Southern tea shop), Metro Deli (soul food, including a really tasty hoecake), and Miss D’s Pralines (so many amazing sweets).



My mom and I loved our afternoon spent together being touristy, learning some really neat things about the city’s history, and eating our way through Downtown. The tour guides were wonderful and so knowledgeable, and everything we tasted was fantastic. I highly recommend this for both visitors and locals. We can always stand to learn more about our great city, right?

(photo by our tour guide, Ashley)

A Woodland Chic Baby Shower


Last weekend, I co-hosted a baby shower for my brother and my sister-in-law, who are expecting their first baby in April. It’s hard to believe that we’re that far along in our lives that my little brother is about to become a dad (!!), but I was honored and so excited to be a part of throwing this shower for them. I joined forces with her two childhood best friends, who are some of the sweetest, most fun and creative ladies I know.

The chosen theme was woodland chic, and we hosted at my brother’s in-laws’ beautiful home, which looks like an art gallery (her dad is a very talented, self-taught artist). We had so much fun running with this theme, and I think it turned out beautifully. We incorporated a trail mix bar for guests to make party favors, and we used the cutest little teepee to hold gifts, and it’ll later be added to baby boy’s nursery.

I photographed the shower, and I couldn’t resist sharing some shots with y’all. The little woodsy details sprinkled throughout were some of my favorite parts, but the absolute best part was being surrounded by about 45 of their closest friends and both of our families to celebrate them and their little one on the way. He is already so loved, and I just can’t wait to become an aunt soon!!


















love is all you need. vday 2017.


I’ve had so much fun planning little things for this Valentine’s Day, because let’s face it, holidays are just a lot more exciting when you have a little one to celebrate with. I may have gone slightly overboard picking out some goodies for her, but it’s just so much fun shopping for her, and Target just has a way of suckering me into buying something cute every time I enter its doors. She is obsessed with her little toaster oven for her kitchen because the toast flies out and onto the floor when the timer goes off. I particularly love her ladybug raincoat (Cat & Jack does it again!), and the flamingo hooded bath towel. And I thought those felt flowers were so cute to give her for Valentine’s because they’re indestructible, and now they’re adding some color and sweetness to her kitchen. She got some more thoughtful goodies from several family members… she’s one loved little lady!

I had big plans of making all the heart-shaped things on Tuesday, starting with pink pancakes for breakfast. They tasted delicious and were definitely pink, but next time, I need to invest in a heart-shaped pancake mold or just use a squirt bottle filled with batter to draw hearts on the pan. Leighton didn’t seem to mind, though, so I’ll call it a win.



After hearing about a cute little French flower stand that would be set up at the Westside Provisions District, L and I took a little field trip to pick out some fresh blooms for my mom, who is also known as one of L’s bffs and her favorite babysitter. She’s so gracious with giving so much of her time to help us with watching Leighton so we can work and also have a little fun… so some surprise flowers seemed appropriate on the day of love.



Craig and I decided a couple years ago to stop doing a nice dinner out on VDay… after all, who really likes paying too much money for a pre fixe menu and having to sit at tiny two-top tables that are so close to the next table that you may as well be sitting with those strangers?? 🙂 We’ll usually do our dinner out prior or just afterward, because we always love an excuse for a date night. I was unfortunately down for the count with a fever on our scheduled date night, so that’ll have to happen later…  but I did get some pretty flowers a little early to brighten my day. 🙂


Instead of going out, we invited my mom over (dad’s out of town for work) and had a little family dinner date. We made heart-shaped chicken parm with pasta and finished up with skillet s’mores. Y’all. They’re they easiest, most bang for your buck dessert ever! I could practically bathe in that chocolatey, marshmallowey goodness. Hope you all had a lovely day, whether it was spent celebrating with a loved one, your galentines, or just hanging on the couch with a pint of ice cream!



A Few of My Favorite Things (157)

[when asked “Where’s Coco?”]

[pink on pink on pink]

[black bean facial]

[and a perfect yogurt mustache]

[my new assistant chef]

[happy 31st to the best little bro!]

[Stella & Dot look of the week:: Amala Pendant Necklace // Old Navy sweater]

[Feb ’15 – eating paper towels // Feb ’16 – identifying animals in books]

[Greek lunch date with my favorite bride-to-be]

[zoo in January? yes, please!]

[finding giraffes in books and in real life]


[testing out Hello Fresh – get $40 off your first delivery!]

We are testing out the Hello Fresh meal service this week, and so far, we’ve been pleasantly surprised. We picked out 3 meals from the weekly offering (they change every week), and although the box barely arrived later in the evening than we’d have preferred, we were able to make the first one last night when we got it. It took a little longer to cook than we expected, but that’s probably just because we didn’t have it in time to prep anything in advance (like cutting the veggies). Dinner was delish, and even Leighton hopped up in our laps to steal several bites. This is in no way sponsored, but they offer a really great referral discount for new users. Use this link to get a whopping $40 off your first delivery! Considering it’s about $60 for 3 different 2-person dinners, that’s a really fabulous discount to try out the service.

In other news, it’s been a fun and busy couple weeks around here. We celebrated my little brother’s birthday with dinner at Miller Union and some drinks at Cooks & Soldiers (mental note to go back for dinner sometime), and I had a weekend full of photo sessions. The weather has been beautiful this week, which called for an impromptu trip to the zoo with Grandma. She brought a lift-the-flap Zoo book she has for L, and we had fun looking for the different animals from the book to see if there were at the zoo. Leighton just learned how to make an elephant sound and she throws her arm up in the air like its trunk — it’s really adorable, and it was neat to get to show her a real live elephant at the zoo!

Hope y’all have a lovely weekend! And although I’m not really a pro football fan, I feel like I need to say it — RISE UP! Here’s hoping that the Falcons can pull out a win in the Super Bowl on Sunday!

A Few of My Favorite Things (156)

After being out of commission for several days last weekend due to a stomach bug, it was so nice to be back to normal this week. We made good use of the warm weather and spent lots of time outside with Leighton, grilled out and enjoyed the sunset, and finally got back to music class after the holiday hiatus.

One of my best girlfriends came in town for a little girls day over the weekend. Several of us spent the day at Ponce City Market and the Atlanta Wine Fest, and it was so fun to just be out and about for the day with some of my favorite girls. We met up later with the guys and had some drinks and dinner in Inman Park. Such a great way to spend a rainy winter day!

We had a low-key Sunday and headed over to our friends’ house to watch the Falcons game and eat pizza. Leighton had the best time running around and playing with their kids. I think she enjoyed eating carrot sticks and mushrooms even more than playing with their toys… such easy-to-please little creatures. I don’t care much about pro football, but it is still exciting to have our home team headed to the Super Bowl! It made for a nice end to a great week.


[backdoor sunsets]

[daddy upgraded the dishwasher]

[cozy coupe twins]

[baby’s first tiny trim – goodbye, fuzzy patch!]

[girls day @ ATL Wine Fest]

[mostly redheaded baby friends]

A Few of My Favorite Things (155)

Well, we (the city of Atlanta) prepared for #Snowpocalypse2017 last weekend, but all we ended up with here was a bit of ice and some freezing cold temps. I’m glad, because I had a weekend full of photo sessions and we had a 1st birthday party to attend… no time for snow and ice! I was honored to be asked to photograph one of my best friend’s mom’s surprise 65th birthday party at the Intercontinental Hotel on Saturday night. It was such a fun evening with great food, funny stories from her friends and family, and even a guitar/harmonica performance of a song that her brother wrote for her.

It was a busy, cold first week of the new year. We have another busy week ahead, but it’s full of mostly fun stuff and more photo sessions, so I can’t complain. Happy Monday!

[LL’s look of the week – perfect for shopping and lunch at Avalon]

[camera upgrade (on top) for the new year]

[ready for snow!]

[Charlotte’s ONEderland birthday]

[cake time!]

[sweet party favors]

[Avery is ONE]

A Few of My Favorite Things (NYE edition)


It’s been a while since I’ve done a weekly post, so I figured the new year is a great time to bring it on back. Last week was mostly filled with more Christmas festivities in Nashville (see my previous post), but we got back in town just in time for New Year’s Eve. My mom graciously agreed to spend the night at our house to keep Leighton so we could spend the evening with some friends at their new house. It was a much-needed break and the perfect way to ring in the new year!

[noon year’s eve with LL]img_7951

[my favorite pb&j face]



[party hats, blowers, champagne, and blondes]

[our youngest and cutest partier]


[our fabulous hosts]

[starting 2017 with some fabulous friends and hats]

Oh What Fun! Christmas 2016

Leighton’s 2nd Christmas was every bit as fun as I thought it would be! I feel like I hear it all the time, but the holidays truly are infinitely  more magical once you have a child to experience them with. We spent well over a week celebrating with my family and then with Craig’s in Nashville, and it was a wonderful way to make it last just a little longer.


We had a little family dinner and gifts at our house with my parents, brother and sister-in-law before the two of them went out of town. Leighton spent the majority of the night begging for iced tea from Grandpa’s cup and playing with him in her kitchen. He was down on the floor eating fake food and having a ball with her, which was such a fun sight.



To take a break from cooking for the week, we had a somewhat low-key Christmas Eve with my parents at Atlanta Fish Market. Leighton was pretty restless and ended up sitting on the floor behind another table of people, just playing with her lunchbox. She doesn’t really appreciate a good meal yet. 🙂

We came home and put her right to bed so we could set up for Christmas morning. This was the first time I’ve been really excited to set up Santa’s gifts, and we couldn’t wait to see what she thought of everything the next morning. She’s still way too young to understand what is going on, but the anticipation was exciting nonetheless. Seeing this photo almost makes me wish we could keep our tree up all year. Except not really, because pine needles were everywhere. Also, Craig picked out her dish washer on his own and didn’t tell me about it until we put her gifts out. I love that he thought of something he knew she’d absolutely love, because she’s obsessed with helping unload the real one.

Leighton made a beeline for her new table and chairs and then set her sights on her fancy new dish washer. She was clearly very excited once she figured out what it was, and it even has a button to turn it on the wash cycle. She wasn’t much for gift opening, but she did dig into her stocking and carried her new sippy cup and bag of Yogis while we opened gifts. She racked up with a portable DVD player for the car (Santa hoped that it would be helpful on the upcoming drive to Nashville), a magnet board and fabric alphabet magnets, a growth chart, some clothes, board books, and a puzzle. She also got some fun goodies in her stocking, which has always been my favorite part. Coco was very pleased with her big bone, a toy, and an assortment of treats.






After our little family Christmas at home, we drove up to my parents’ house for a big breakfast and opening presents in our pjs. I hope this is a tradition that we’ll continue for years to come! Leighton wasn’t at all interested in opening presents there, either, so she pulled Grandpa outside to play on her new slide and wander around in the yard. Both were happy as clams. 😉




The day after Christmas, we drove up to Nashville to spend the next several days with Craig’s family. We had such a nice time, and despite having lots of plans to see friends and family, it actually felt pretty relaxing. We ate a lot of home-cooked meals, Leighton had some serious play time with family, we got to see a couple of my best girlfriends and visit one of their new homes (and her new puppy!), and even managed to take a few freezing walks around the neighborhood in the mornings.


Leighton was a huge fan of her new shopping cart, if you couldn’t tell from the photos below. She hilariously kept trying to get inside it like she does at the grocery store.












Her DVD player and new lift-the-flap book saved our delayed trip on the way home, thanks to some extra traffic outside of Atlanta. We had such a wonderful Christmas week, and it was sad to see it all come to an end. But it was also fun to end the year on such a great note, spent with family and some dear friends. I am already looking forward to the holidays next year!

two thousand sixteen


I feel like 2016 just began, and yet here we are, celebrating the end of another amazing year and looking forward to the next one. One thing I’ve learned this year is how much more quickly time really does seem to fly once you have a child. I partly feel like time has been stolen from us, just moving so quickly on its way… but I am also grateful for each moment and day we have together. Thankfully, I’m no stranger to the camera, so this year’s adventures, both big and small, have been pretty well-documented.

We rung in the new year with 2 other families at a cabin in Helen, GA. Leighton hadn’t quite figured out the party blowers yet, but she had a great time celebrating with her friends Chase, Landry, and Drew!


The first few months of the year brought many baby milestones, including rolling over, sitting up, and eating her first foods. She is still obsessed with apples to this day, but she also has a host of other favorite foods.



Leighton’s 1/2 birthday was of course documented with not one, but two photo sessions. I did one at home with her tutu and festive party hat, and then we had one done at my favorite local photo spot, Whittier Mill Park. We hired Jenny Perry Photography to capture our little family in our first professional session since her newborn photos, and I couldn’t be more in love with how they turned out. They are truly images I will cherish forever.



Leighton’s first Easter was spent with Craig’s family in Nashville, and it was such a lovely weekend. Her bunny-smocked dress for church was a tad big, but she was so darn cute in it, especially when clutching onto her basket that was the same size as her.

In March, we started The Music Class, a local series of classes for infants and toddlers. We go to this class weekly and have such a fun time learning about rhythm/tone, various instruments, and playing with the kids in class. Leighton also enjoys rolling around the classroom floor on a regular basis.

In April, we traveled to Franklin to attend Craig’s 15 year high school reunion from BGA. I’m still wondering how in the world we are old enough to have been out of high school for 15 years…


Craig and I celebrated our first Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with our little lady. They were such fun days filled with good meals, pedicures with mom (on my day), some boat time on the lake (on Craig’s day), and family time.



We celebrated weddings of friends in Newnan, GA; Blowing Rock, NC; and Nashville. The wedding in NC brought our first time both being away from Leighton for a long weekend, and it went so well, thanks to L’s bff, Granny Ann. We also had wedding anniversary #7 (!!) and went out for a delicious dinner at The Mercury at PCM — I mainly wanted to go because of the firework cake!







Leighton went on not one, but two beach vacations this spring and summer. She liked the shell-filled sand at my grandmother’s beach house in St. Augustine, but she was not so thrilled by the sugar white sand in Rosemary Beach. She did, however, love being in the warm ocean of the Gulf, and she also enjoyed all the time she got to spend with her grandparents, uncle, and aunt!






In July, we traveled up to Chattanooga, TN for our first little family trip with just the three of us. It was a quick weekend — we rented a cute Airbnb house and spent a couple days wandering the town in the most sweltering heat, visiting the aquarium, riding a carousel, and eating at a few really yummy local spots. We finished up our trip by catching a couple of Craig’s sister Cassie’s softball games during a tournament they had in town.




Just a few days after turning 10 months, Leighton took her first steps! She’s been on the move ever since. She is a toddler tornado, to say the least, and I love the sound of the pitter patter of her little feet running all over our house — usually chasing Coco.

I turned 33 in August, and Craig treated me to an overnight staycation. We stayed at the Intercontinental (which spoiled me with a birthday cake at our door), we walked and ate lunch on the Beltline, played games at Skyline Park at PCM, and had dinner at Aria. The next day, we took a guided city tour via bikes and saw some really cool parts of town, including a history of the graffiti and mural art in Atlanta. Such a wonderful way to ring in another trip around the sun!





In September, we celebrated Leighton’s big milestone 1st birthday! We took her to the zoo for the first time, had a family cookout, and wrapped up her big weekend with a circus-themed birthday party, surrounded by about 60 of our closest friends and family members. I just can’t believe she’s already one! She loved the cake, by the way. She may not look like me, but she is definitely my child.



Craig turned 34 in October, and we ate our weight in goat cheese cake by his request. I took him on a surprise day date for lunch and shooting at a new gun range in Midtown, and we had a couple yummy dinners to honor our favorite guy.




Something I’ve always wanted to do finally came to fruition this year… family Halloween costumes! Because Leighton loves to dance (aka bobble her head around), we thought she would make the most perfect hula girl. We dressed as Hawaiian tourists, and the weather couldn’t have been more un-seasonally appropriate (read: WARM) for our costumes. She was a big hit everywhere we went!


Coco Bear turned 6 in November, and Leighton is more enamored with her than ever. She is the sweetest puppy sister, always tolerating L’s pets, pokes, and screams. It does help, though, that L loves to share her snacks and meals with her.


Our neighbors have a little girl who is just a few months older than Leighton, and they have become the best of friends over the past several months. They play together in our yards and run down the street to greet each other with a giant hug. They also adore their slightly older friend who also lives on our street, which is so cute. We’re so thankful to have ended up with such wonderful neighbor friends.



One of her best new tricks this year is her “mean face,” which she loves to give to us and pretty much every stranger she meets. She’s also learned to throw her hands over her mouth any time we say “OH NO!” — both are downright hilarious, and she knows it.



We’ve really enjoyed starting some new Christmas traditions with L this past month. Christmas light/blowup hunting around our part of town, cookie baking and decorating, visiting Santa, and riding the Pink Pig. The holidays truly do become infinitely more magical through the eyes of a child!



2016 was an absolute whirlwind, and it was perfect in pretty much every way. We’re so blessed to be surrounded by amazing family and friends who never fail to support and love on us. Melissa Hayes Photography continues to grow, and I’m so humbled and honored to have the opportunity to work with such amazing clients, many of whom have become friends. This was my first full year as a work-from-home mom, and it’s better than anything I hoped or prayed for.

I could not be more thankful for this little family we’ve got, the adventures we have, and the laughs we share on a daily basis. Each month is more fun than the last as Leighton keeps growing, learning, and finding new ways to make us lose it over her silly and sassy antics. Of course there are some tired days or frustrating moments peppered in here and there, but we are healthy and safe and happy, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day. My morning alarm clock goes off to the tune of “uh-oh!” and “da-da” on repeat, and I get to rock our baby to sleep almost every night. There is truly nothing better at this stage in my life.

We have so much to look forward to in the coming year, and I am excited to share our stories with y’all. Cheers to 2017!

Leighton @ 15 months


Height + weight: 30.25″ // 24 lbs

Milestones: Once she hit her 1st birthday, we completely weaned off nursing and bottles. She did both seamlessly and didn’t even miss a beat with moving onto whole milk and only drinking from sippy cups, which made the transition a lot easier for me, too!


Likes: Food! She’s pretty much up for trying anything we put in front of her, which is more than I can say for myself… 😉 Over the past few months, she’s tried chicken fingers, butternut squash soufflé, pb&j sandwich, chicken casserole, tomatoes, fried clam strips (such a weird thing, but totally one of my favorites!), pimiento cheese, cheese quesadillas, animal crackers, cheddar bunnies, veggie straws, french toast sticks, popcorn, and grits. Oh, and a grilled marshmallow and peanut butter sandwich… yum!


It’s clear that Leighton is already a big dog lover. She is obsessed with Coco. She likes to share her snacks with her, lick her fur, and give her aggressive pats on the head. Coco takes it all in stride and is so gentle and patient with her. I took L to PetsMart recently and she was enamored with the dogs staying in their pet hotel. They have a big window looking into the doggy play area, and I’m pretty sure I could have left her there all day if that were an acceptable thing to do. We go back by there weekly now.


Since the weather has been so nice, she loves going outside in the afternoons to play in the street and our yards with her bff neighbor, Emmy. (Not to worry — the street is within our small neighborhood and we stand next to them while they play.) They run down the street to each other and hug, which is just heart-meltingly cute. Emmy has quickly learned that if she hops in one of their cozy coupes, Leighton will push her. Smart girl.

Dislikes: Still not the biggest fan of diaper changes or having her face wiped off after a meal. 

Being told “NO!”… which poses a problem, because it happens fairly often. She has taken to throwing whatever is in her hands when we tell her to stop doing something, so we’re trying to curb that behavior.


Fun stuff + firsts: She has learned to play peek-a-boo; she started by covering her face with her bath towel while she was laying down on her changing table after bath time. Now she loves to play that game by hiding her face in her carseat when Grandma is in the car with us. She has also learned how to fake cough… she is quite the little drama queen and class clown.

We celebrated Leighton’s 2nd Halloween and Thanksgiving seasons, and I am quickly learning that holidays are so much more fun each year as she grows older. I can’t wait for Christmas!




Her favorite words right now are dada, uh-oh, dog (dod!), and uh-uh. She usually says uh-oh when she purposely drops something, and she says uh-uh to argue with me all the time. I’m also teaching her to say “Go Dawgs!”

She can roll her eyes on command, which is all sorts of hilarious – and we’ll probably be regretting it at some point. She also makes a great “mean face,” which involves lowering her chin and staring up at us with a very stern look. She knows it’s hilarious, and she has already done it several times to try to get out of trouble. I’m slightly worried that she already knows how to do that at one year old.


Now that she’s only napping once a day, we have a lot more free time. We go to music class weekly, and we’ve started trying out different parks around town. She has a new fondness of slides and will demand to ride them over and over and over again. On days that I’m feeling brave, we’ll run errands to Target, Old Navy, the grocery store, and anywhere else that I feel confident I can keep her entertained with snacks and a shopping cart ride. I’ll sometimes drop Leighton off to hang out with my mom at their house so I can go to the gym, and I know she loves running around in their yard, playing the piano, and scaring their cats.






Leighton is getting a bigger and bigger personality by the week, and we just can’t get enough of her antics. She’s becoming the best little hugger, and she gives amazing, slobbery kisses. We love her so very, very much!