savannah & matt {sweetheart session}

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Savannah and Matt have been dating for several years now, but didn’t have any professional photos together and they decided this was the year to do it!  We met up at Claytor Lake State Park (one of my favorite places to spend a summer afternoon!), found some pretty, tucked-away little spots to shoot at during the first part of our session, and then ended on the sand right in front of the water!  They brought their shelty pup, Madeye, who (of course!) made quite a few appearances throughout our session!  Have I mentioned that I love including fur babies in sessions?  😉  Partly because I just love dogs, but also because those moments always end up being some of the most treasured images from the session!  Our pets hold such a special place in our hearts, and I’m all about making special memories with them!

Before I get to rambling, how about I share some of my favorite images from Savannah & Matt’s session with y’all?  😉

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How adorable is Savannah in this next shot on the right?!  I love it.

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This next one on the right is one of my FAVES!  I can’t help but smile along with these two every time I see it. 😉

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We had an uncharacteristically warm October day for our session, so they were able to kick those shoes off and take a barefoot stroll through the sand …

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Also, have you ever tried to snuggle up close on a floating boat dock?  Not easy.  These two were troopers!  Haha!

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This next one is another of my faves!!  I asked Matt to twirl Savannah and after he twirled her, he brought her in close for a little kiss!

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And they did some slow dancing and snuggling by the water!  😉

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This next one is definitely another fave!  Such a sweet little moment!

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I’ll end with two more of my FAVES!  I’m basically obsessed with this shot on the left (all the heart eyes!), and then I love how perfectly Madeye sat and looked right at the camera for the shot on the right!

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Savannah, Matt, thank you for trusting me to capture this season for y’all!  I hope these images always bring back the best feelings from this time in your lives!  🙂

Big hugs!

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ashley & ricky {sweetheart mini-session}

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Y’all.  I can’t even tell you how warm & fuzzy my little heart feels when I look at these images.  One of the most special things I get to do as a photographer is capture moments for the people closest to me (like my cousin’s wedding last year, my brother-in-law’s wedding this spring, and my sister-in-law’s family session this summer!).  Ricky and Ashley didn’t ask me to shoot an actual session for them – they just wanted a handful of images because they didn’t have any professional photos of the two of them together.  But let’s be honest, when you’re a portrait & wedding photographer (and photographing couples is your JAM) and your only sibling asks you for “just a few” photos of him and his girlfriend (who you just adore), you can’t help but go a little above and beyond “just a few” images.  Am I right?!?

I could go on and on all day about how grateful I am for my relationship with my little brother, and how Ashley stole my heart from the moment I met her, and how my heart feels like it just might burst when I see how sweet they are with each other.  But I’m going to pull it together and instead, I’ll give you a few of my favorites from their impromptu mini-session at The Trolley Barn in Atlanta.  Get ready to swoon over these two because I’m telling you, it just doesn’t get any stinkin’ cuter than this.

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GAH, I love both of these next ones but especially the one on the left.  I can’t even with these two.

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And another fave.  they. are. the. CUTESSST.

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LOVE this next wide shot!  #allthehearteyes

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and this next one, OHmygoodness.  this one makes me so happy because it was a completely natural moment – ricky just pulled ashley close like this without any specific direction or prompting from me, and it’s genuine and precious and I just love it.

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and I’ll end with this soft, romantic moment because I absolutely adore this shot!  (and it’s stunning in black & white, don’t you think?)

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Ricky, Ashley, I love you both!  I loved every minute we got to spend together in Atlanta and I already can’t wait until we get to see each other again.  Wish I could give you both a big hug right this second!  I hope you love these images as much as I do!

holzer family {newborn}

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I had such a great time getting to know Kelly and Matt (and little miss Audrey – don’t you just love that name?! – and their fur babies, Poe and Luna) during their session!  Matt and Kelly both grew up in southwest Virginia, but did not meet until they were both living in Charlottesville after college!  They relocated back to the Roanoke area not long before finding out that little Audrey was on the way, which has worked out nicely since both sets of grandparents are now close enough to lend a helping hand when they need it! 😉 Even though I hadn’t met Kelly and Matt before our session, it was so easy to see during our brief time together that these two make a great team.  They seemed to work together so effortlessly to make sure Audrey’s every need was met, and it was such a sweet thing to witness!

Without further adieu, enjoy my favorites from my time with the Holzer family!

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Poe was definitely convinced that I was only there to see him! Haha!  (Also, I loved this sweet little nursery!)

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This next shot is one of my favorites!!

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Just look at this precious little face!

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Love this next one of the whole family on the left!  Luna and Poe did so good for these!!

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How adorable is this next frame?!  I love it!

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Aaaand another favorite … how cute is Luna?

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I love this next shot of Kelly and Audrey on the left!

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Another favorite!  Such a sweet little moment!  (Also, can we talk for a second about how perfect the light was in every room of their house?!  It made every image feel so soft and airy!)

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Sweet daddy-daughter moments!

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Baby toes!!

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Another FAVE!  Love this sweet shot!

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Kelly, Matt, thank you so much for inviting me into this season of life with you (and into your home for the morning!) – I so enjoyed getting to know both of you and I hope these images always bring back the best memories of these first few weeks with your little girl!

sommers family {newborn}

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I had the privilege of being the 2nd photographer at Sarah and Daniel’s wedding last August, and I was so honored when they reached out to me about booking a newborn session this year as they were preparing to start their family!  I had such a great time getting to know Sarah and Daniel better and capturing them as they connected with each other and their sweet boy.  Daniel serves his wife lovingly and selflessly, and it’s easy to see how much Sarah treasures both of her boys!  Sweet Elliot is a precious combination of his mama & daddy and he did so great during our session!  I’m so excited to share my favorites from their session with y’all!

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I love this snuggly moment!

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Oh my goodness, these little fingers and toes …

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I ADORE this next shot of Sarah & Elliot on the left!

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Daniel is a fire fighter, so we incorporated some of his gear into their session!

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And when it was time for Elliot’s baby-only photos, he just snoozed his way through them!  So precious!

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Sarah, Daniel, thank you so much for inviting me into this sweet season with y’all!  It was so fun spending the morning with you!

Big hugs to all three of you!

bowling family {dublin, va lifestyle session}

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I had the privilege of working with this precious little family when I photographed a newborn session for them last year (still one of my all-time favorites!), and again when I photographed Emily’s sister’s wedding this past June, so when Emily reached out to me about booking a family session to celebrate little miss Kennedy turning one, I was over the moon excited to work with them again!  I’ve gotten to know so many of their family members over the last year, and it’s made me recognize even more just how much I love the relational nature of this job.  I absolutely love getting to connect with and build friendships with sweet couples and families (who I otherwise may have never met!), and it makes my heart so full knowing that we’ve created memories together that they will treasure forever.

Emily and Chris chose to have their session on Chris’s dad’s farm, which I loved because it has so much significance to them and their story!  It’s where Chris proposed, and it’s where they held their wedding reception!  You just can’t get a more sentimental location to capture another chapter in their story, now can you?!  Not to mention, it’s an absolutely beautiful piece of property!  (And y’all, the light we had at the end of their session?!  I. can’t. even.)

OK, I’ll stop rambling now and I’ll get on with sharing some of my favorite images of this sweet little family!!  Enjoy!

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I mean, really, this little cutie.  With her two little bottom teeth.  I can’t even.

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I had to include this next shot in the blog post, because this was the look she ended up giving me every time she heard the shutter click!  It made me laugh every time!

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Also, how convenient was it that this flower she loved happened to coordinate perfectly with their outfits?!  Haha!

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Little one-year-old toes…

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I especially love this next shot on the right, of mama & baby girl!

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And I love this one of Chris & Kennedy.  I mean, how stinking cute is this?!

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This next one, y’all.

Cuteness.

Overload.

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Our location for the second half of their session was absolutely gorgeous!  Even though it had been a bit of a gloomy, rainy morning, the sun had come out for us that afternoon and we made it up the hill at just the perfect time to catch that golden, buttery sunset light and it. was. AMAZING!  Plus, this spot was only a few hundred feet from the spot where Chris proposed!  How perfect is that?!  So, of course, I made sure we grabbed a few frames of just Chris & Emily.  And I’m kind of obsessed with all of them.

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Of course, miss Kennedy made quite a few appearances in this spot, too!

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Ahhh, this next one, you guys.  FAVE!

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Emily, Chris, thank you so much for trusting me to capture both of these sweet seasons for y’all.  I have enjoyed it so much!  I hope these images always bring back the sweetest memories of what your first year as a family felt like!

Big hugs to all three of you!!!

bridget & morgan {carter mountain orchard engagement}

bridget & morgan engagement featured_0001I loved so many things about Bridget and Morgan’s engagement session!!  I loved that they chose to have it at one of their favorite date night locations from the early years of their relationship.  I loved that they were 100% okay with slow dancing in an apple orchard (twice).  I loved that Morgan kept sneaking in little forehead and nose kisses all on his own, just because he could.  I loved how easily they laughed together.  (And if I’m being honest, I also loved that we decided to grab a bite to eat together after their session – because I’m so grateful when my clients turn into friends!)

I could go on about how much fun we had together at their session (in spite of the sticky heat we had that day!), but I know you all want to get to the good stuff!  😉  So without further adieu, enjoy my favorites from Bridget & Morgan’s engagement session at Carter Mountain Orchard!

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I also loved Bridget’s ring – it just doesn’t get more classic than a gorgeous solitaire diamond, am I right?

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This next one … definitely one of my favorites!!!

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Aaaaand another favorite.  Bridget, you are so pretty!!

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The sun never fully came out from behind the clouds for us, but there’s still a pretty glow in a few of these frames from the very end of our session!  (like this next one on the right!)romantic-virginia-engagement-photosnatural-lifestyle-photographerapple-orchard-engagement-photosapple-orchard-engagement-photo-sessionapple-orchard-engagement-photographyapple-orchard-anniversary-photos

I absolutely LOVE this next black & white!  So soft & romantic!

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Bridget, Morgan, thank you so much for inviting me to share this sweet season with y’all!  I absolutely loved getting to know you both a little better at our session, and I already cannot wait to do this again in May!!!

Big hugs to both of you!

#lifewithteamrickards : that time we hiked the grand canyon

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Yes, you read that right.  It’s hard to believe, but one year ago today, Jason and I began our descent into the Grand Canyon.  On foot.  With about 30 lbs on my back and 55 lbs on his.  Not to return to civilization (or cell signal, or a real mattress, or a shower) until our feet carried us back out the next day.

We had flown into Flagstaff, AZ the day before (side note:  Flagstaff has got to be the smallest airport ever – even smaller than our little regional airport here in Roanoke, VA!) and stocked up on our perishables at Walmart.  That morning, we loaded up our packs with tons of water and the other essential items that we would need to hike roughly 16.5 miles of trail and just shy of 5,000 feet in elevation change (each direction) – all in about a 28-hour period of time.

I literally couldn’t even type that without laughing, because y’all.  We. were. crazy.  And I still can’t believe we actually did it.

But we did.  And we made it.  [If I could put emojis in a blog post, I would put all the praise hands here.]  All 16.5 miles and ~4,800 feet of elevation change each day.  And if we’re being honest, I never would have made it without Jason.  (Of course, I probably also would never have attempted this if it weren’t for him, but that’s beside the point, right?  Haha!)  I can laugh about it now, but it was – hands down – the most physically challenging thing I have ever done in my life.  I was definitely suffering from heat exhaustion by the time we reached camp on the first day.  (And did you know that once heat exhaustion sets in, it takes your body 2-3 days to recover?  Yeah.  Fun times.)  Thank goodness Jason didn’t mind setting up camp all by himself.  I had a legitimate breakdown (y’all. crying.)  halfway up on Day 2 because what I desperately wanted was to push through and just keep walking so we could be done, but my body wasn’t cooperating.  It’s super frustrating when your body doesn’t line up with your willpower.  BUT, Jason lightened my pack by taking my camera and some of my other heavier items from me, and eventually, we did make it out.  And now, I really can laugh about it.  And I can be a little proud of myself because I did keep going (albeit, a heck of a lot slower than I wanted to) and I did carry myself into the Grand Canyon and back out in just over one day (literally, started in at 10:30AM on Thursday and hobbled out around 2:30PM on Friday).  Which, by the way, I don’t recommend – see above where I said we were crazy. #truestory

But I do have some pretty breathtaking images to show for it, if I do say so myself…

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Jason took this panorama on his phone:

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And we snapped some more iPhone shots along the way, because it was just easier than unpacking my big girl camera from my pack every 5 minutes!

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This sign in the photo on the right was about halfway down on the first day.

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Can we stop and talk about the fact that the trail is literally just cut into the side of the ridge?!  it was crazy!

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I mean, you guys – this VIEW, right?!  And to think we walked all the way down into the depths of that and back out in about 28 hours.  Have I mentioned we were crazy?

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It was sometime after this point that I really started feeling rough, so I didn’t break my camera out much the rest of that day, but I did snap an iPhone shot of this bridge we had to use to cross the Colorado River!  (See the tunnel opening in the lower right-hand corner of the frame that we had to walk through to get to the bridge?) We were probably an hour or so from the Bright Angel Campground at this point.

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When we finally made it to the campground, I passed out for about an hour or so while Jason set up camp (bless him) and then when I finally felt like moving again, we explored Bright Angel Campground a little.  Here’s our little tent and camp site!

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Thank goodness Jason had done #alltheresearch and made sure we had #allthethings we could possibly need to survive in the wilderness!

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Who knew there was so much vegetation in the base of the Grand Canyon, right?!  And it was SO. HOT. down there!  I don’t think the temperature got below 80 degrees overnight.

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We broke camp and started the trek back up super early the next morning… I think we were packed and on our way before 6AM.  (Those of you who know me well know that this in and of itself is a miracle!  Haha!)  But I’m so glad we did, because we made the best progress before the sun got too strong, and some of my favorite images are from those early morning hours on that second day.

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We took the South Kaibab Trail in on Day 1 and took the Bright Angel Trail out on Day 2, so we crossed a different bridge early on Day 2.

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Have you ever wondered how much of a hot mess you’d be if you had hiked 7 miles into the grand canyon and then slept there with no shower?  See below.  I don’t even know what is happening with my hair.  I actually think this is how I woke up and I just left it, because… what was the point.

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We literally made it almost exactly halfway up on Day 2 (roughly 4.5 out of 9 miles) in the first three hours (before the sun made it directly overhead), which was awesome and we were super excited about it.  (Little did we know it would take us about 5 hours to conquer the second half of the trail, because my body was boycotting this whole endeavor.)

But this grainy, out-of-focus, terribly-unflattering-of-both-of-us iPhone shot is one of my favorites from the whole trip, because in this moment we were excited, we were proud of what we had accomplished, and we were ready to face the rest of this challenge together.

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This view right here, though.  Oh my goodness.

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It wasn’t long after this that I really started struggling.  I was nauseous, my legs felt so weak, and I had to stop and rest WAY more frequently than I wanted to.  We encountered a determined little squirrel who kept trying to steal our trail mix.  (Also, peep the distinct dirt line above Jason’s socks!  Y’all, I’ve never been so filthy in my life.)

Aaaand then I had a breakdown.  Crying.  Because I just wanted to be done and we still had like 2 or 3 miles left to go and my body was letting me down.  And what did Jason do?  He took a PICTURE of me.  Yes, the image on the right is literally me having a breakdown in the Grand Canyon.  He’s a smart guy, though.  He didn’t share this with me until days later – when I could appreciate it.  Haha!

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This was the very last photo I took on my way out, with my iPhone, because nobody had the energy to fish my big girl camera out of Jason’s pack at this point.  But my gosh, I had to get a shot of this, right?!

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When we finally made it back to our rental car, we had roughly a 6 hour drive ahead of us.  (My cousin was getting married in Beaver, Utah that weekend and I was shooting the wedding, alongside two of her good friends, also photographers.  Check out that gorgeousness here!)  We were starving (did I mention all I could stomach eating that entire second day, thanks to the heat exhaustion, was trail mix?) and were so ready to reach the next town and sit down and eat a hot meal.  So we hit the road, and we drove.

And we drove some more.  Through the desert.  Where there was literally nothing.

And we came to a stop light where there was a gas station and a burger king.  And we decided, we wanted REAL food and we could make it to the next town.

And y’all, I swear we went 4 hours without seeing more than a gas station and maybe another fast food joint every hour or so.

FINALLY, we crossed the Utah state line and we found ourselves in a real town. With real restaurants.  And we hobbled out of the car like hunchbacks and we ordered the biggest plates of fried chicken and mashed potatoes I think I’ve ever eaten.  And somewhere along the line (actually, I’m pretty sure it was before we ever made it out of the Canyon), between my heat exhaustion and my blistered feet and our sore muscles, we decided it probably wouldn’t be wise to attempt the second overnight hike we’d planned for the tail end of our trip, after the wedding weekend festivities.

So we booked a hotel room in Las Vegas instead.  At Caesar’s Palace.  And this girl right here, who’d said she had no desire to visit Las Vegas and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, enjoyed every second of the two days we spent in Las Vegas.

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You guys, there were directional signs IN Caesar’s Palace.  Because otherwise you would literally get lost.  IN the resort.  I’m so not kidding.

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We don’t drink and we don’t gamble, but we do like a little pampering every now and then and we love some good food and we love to shop.  And you don’t have to go far to find those things in Vegas.  In fact, there was an entire shopping mall (and TWO Starbucks) IN. OUR. RESORT.  I literally did not have to set foot outside to find an iced caramel macchiato and some normal clothes to wear (because, you know, I had only packed for a wedding … and hiking).  So we slept in, and we traipsed around Vegas, and we ordered room service and we ate amazing food and got as many caramel macchiatos as my little heart desired.

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And we saw the Venetian and we reminisced about our dream trip to Italy (now almost two years ago!) when we walked around Venice and shopped in the real Rialto Bridge.

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And Jason played one slot machine.  (I mean, I think this is a slot machine?)

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And we saw the fountains a the Bellagio and took the obligatory shot of the faux Eiffel Tower at night.

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And the only time we actually saw the phenomenal pools at Caesar’s Palace was at night, but I actually think they were even prettier at night.  Yes, this shot below is just the POOLS at Caesar’s.  Everything in Vegas was so over-the-top and ornate.

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We splurged on a room service breakfast our last morning (first and only time either of us have ever ordered room service – haha!) and it was 100% worth it.  🙂

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Thanks for re-living our trip with me, friends!  I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions in the comments below!  Have you ever been to Vegas or the Grand Canyon?  What was your favorite part of your trip?  Or, if you’ve never been, what would definitely be on your wish list if you were to plan a trip out west?!

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