It's not really necessary to go outdoors. Even indoor photography can be really beautiful! Just make sure you use the natural light. Go stand next to a window or open your door, just get that natural light inside. Natural light will give you that soft look you'll want for your pictures.
When you go outside, you should find some spots in the shadows. This way you won't get that harsh light you have at the middle of the day. You could also make your own shadow: put that umbrella to good use (or get the sunny version, looks beautiful AND retro!)
These are just a few of her tips. Just go to her blog and check it out! I'm sure you'll find numerous interesting posts. I know I did!