JFK Glam Jam; For the Kids

A few months ago I got involved with the Just for Kids Foundation when I sat on the committee to help organize their annual hockey tournament. JFK is an amazing foundation which is dedicated to raising funds to purchase high-priority medical equipment for the Montreal Children’s Hospital. I had so much fun on that committee that I couldn’t wait to get involved again! I was really happy, when I was asked if I could photograph their next event; Glam Jam, which was held at the brand new AVANTI spa in Decarie Square. Of course I said yes. Not only was it a great way to practice, but it was an fun way for me to give back! It was a night filled with beauty and fun, and it was a pleasure to shoot! Here are a few of my favourites from the evening.

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If you are interested in getting involved with Just for Kids or if you would like to see the rest of the photos, be sure to check out their website and Facebook page here: JFK Foundation!

 

Snapshots of life lately: A photoshoot

Photography has been a hobby and passion of mine for years. I got my first DSLR camera over 10 years ago now and I have grown so much since then. I started out using it for fun. Then a few years ago, I started my blog and got really into food photography. I love styling and shooting still life. Then, I was asked to take photos at a friends bridal shower, which led to another bridal shower gig. Being asked to shoot these events, I was faced with a new challenge; capturing moments, emotions and moving objects! It was scary at first, because it’s so different from taking your time placing your items where they need to be, in the perfect lighting and taking as many photos as you want. In event photography, timing is everything. Lighting changes all the time, and capturing human emotions is a whole new world! With that, I have been putting  a lot more energy into taking photos of people. I have been doing family photos, and got a chance to shoot an event recently. It has been really fun and I love all the new skills I am learning. I am now in a place where it is time to upgrade my camera so I can continue pursuing this hobby of mine as more than just that; a hobby.

A few weeks ago, I was shooting a 1st communion and rented a wide angle zoom lens. I wanted to use it a bit before the gig, so I gathered the troops and did a mini photo shoot. I thought it would be fun to share it with you all!

Enjoy!

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Anyone have any tips on turning a photography hobby into something more? I would love to hear about it!

Jess

Birthday Cake Popcorn: An Alternative to Cake!

I love popcorn! It’s such an easy, light snack. Since I got rid of my microwave 2 years ago, I avoided making it, thinking it would be a big “to do” in a pot. I soon realized that it’s really the simplest, most delicious way to make popcorn and it is way more fun than doing it in the microwave!

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I use coconut oil, and a dash of salt on most days, but when there is a special occasion, I have a lot of fun with it. There are so many delicious ways to turn your everyday popcorn into a party in your mouth (check out this post), and this birthday cake popcorn is no exception!

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I recently found myself in need of a lighter, and somewhat healthier alternative to cake, but I still wanted it to be fun and special. So, when I came across this post about birthday cake popcorn, I was really excited to give it a try. It was a huge (addictive) success with the masses, and took me no more than 15 minutes to put together!pop3

Here is what you need:

• 1 1/2 cup white chocolate chopped

• 1 1/2 cups classic white cake mix of your choice.

• 2/3 cup kernels

• 1/2 cup coconut oil for chocolate and popcorn

• A sprinkle of sea salt

• 1/4 cup sprinkles

Step 1: Pop your kernels

In a large pot with a lid, over medium high heat, add 1/4 cup of coconut oil and 3 kernels. Wait until the 3 little kernels pop (these are your testers). Remove them from the pot, add the kernels to the oil with a sprinkle of sea salt and shake it up. Cover and let that pop, while shaking regularly to ensure every little kernel gets a chance to pop. This should take about 2 min. When you start to hear the popping slow down, take off the heat and let it rest.

Step 2: Melt the Chocolate

You can do this in the microwave, but since I don’t have one, I boil a little bit of water in a pot and put a glass bowl overtop. Mix the white chocolate and the remaining 1/4 cup of coconut oil to the bowl, and stir with a spatula until nice and smooth.

Step 3: Make the Batter

Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and add to it the 1 1/2 cups of cake mix. Stir well until there are no lumps left.

Step 4: Assemble

Pour this cake batter, chocolate mixture all over the popcorn that has been resting in the pot. Add the 1/4 cup of sprinkles and fold over until well combined.

Step 5: chill out

On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, spread the popcorn out evenly and let it chill for at least an hour. You may need 2 baking sheets for this recipe.

Step 6: Try your best not to eat it all!

Do you have any fun popcorn recipes to share?

Roatan – An Unexpected Paradise in Central America

If you follow me on Instagram then you already know that I just got back from being in Roatan for a week. Since moving back to Montreal from New York City, I’ve been way less inspired by my surroundings. Don’t get me wrong, I love Montreal, it’s a beautiful city, but it’s just not the same. Once winter hits, all I want to do is stay inside and hibernate. Needless to say, I haven’t been taking many photos and this blog has been suffering a bit… I guess all I needed was little change of scenery and a few cocktails!
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I went to Roatan with literally zero expectations. This trip was mainly to visit my mom and stepdad who just started living there for 6 months out of the year. I didn’t even think it would feel like travel to be honest. I was definitely eager to check out this warm, tropical island, off the mainland of Honduras. A place that my mom’s been raving about for over a year now, but I wasn’t really thinking beyond that. Having no expectations going in was the greatest thing ever, because – as you know – it’s the best way to truly enjoy something. I wish it was an easier thing to do in general, don’t you?!
Roatan blew me away from the moment I stepped off the plane. Everywhere I turned there was something even more beautiful to experience and the sunsets were no exception. They were definitely the showstopper every night. I took so many photos of them. Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it, even the locals continue to be wowed by them night after night and that says something…
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I kept hearing about how the island’s beauty and relaxed vibe kept people coming back for more, or even moving there permanantly. It happened to my parents! There was even a couple who after a few hours on the island decided to come back and buy a house! It seems to put a spell on everyone who steps foot on it. It’s a good thing that I am the kind of person who takes her responsibilities very seriously. If it weren’t for my job, which I enjoy, I probably would have extended my trip for who knows how long. So mom, you were right… keep raving about Roatan because it is pretty amazing. And yes you’re living the dream. And yes, we are ALL jealous!

IMG_3356So, my trip actually started with an abrupt landing on one of the shortest runways I’ve ever seen. Terrified, the cabin clapped with joy as the plane came to a halt. We were kindly informed that this was a very standard landing procedure and the pilot had actually done his job really well… ok, so that was the beginning of so many “odd” things that I would soon realize was normal for Roatan, and that actually made it even more charming.

I think it was when I got off the plane onto the tarmac and I was smacked in the face with humid tropical air that I realized this wasn’t going to be just a visit with my parents…  To my right was this tiny little building they called an airport and to my left was the ocean! OMG I am in Central America! A place I never had the opportunity to visit before! It suddenly hit me that I was about to Travel again!

IMG_3364There were so many novel things to see, and so much to learn about in terms of the culture and way of life. So much differed from what I was used to. I soon realized that the island was filled with interesting people with amazing stories. It didn’t matter where they were coming from, everyone had a personal reason for being in Roatan and everyone had a deep and unique love for the island.

The week really flew by and was crammed with all sorts of adventures. From snorkelling and visiting horses to drinking my favourite cocktails on the beach and dancing the night away to a live band at a bar on the edge of the ocean. There was never a dull moment. Most of our time was spent in West End and West Bay, a more touristic part of the island, filled with popular bars and restaurants right on the beach. There were also a ton of little shops and plenty of hotels. Luckily my parents had rented a car for the week, so we got to explore a decent amount of this small island. Side note: driving in Roatan is like something out of a video game. There are no rules and you are constantly trying to avoid a person, animal, pot hole or random unidentified object in the middle of the road. People pass each other freely, stop wherever they want and for whatever they want. Stopping in the middle of the “highway” to grab a snack from the side of the road is the norm. People just wait calmly behind the stopped car, or pass without a fuss and without resentment. Road rage doesn’t exist and honking is more of a kind gesture. How nice, right? Every town we got to visit on the island was more unique than the next and every person we met was warmer and friendlier than the last. The island felt like one big family!

On our day trip to Havana Beach Club I got to meet these beautiful horses. Some of which were rescued from the mainland and given a second chance on the island. There was the option of taking a ride on the horses around the beach and through the water. I didn’t get a chance to do that but I did take some time to pet them and take photos of their beautiful faces. One horse in particular seemed to take interest in me and followed me around the gated area as I walked around snapping photos.

IMG_3383IMG_3391IMG_3395We made our way out to a small town called Oak Ridge one day. It was only 40km away but took us one whole hour to get there, which is standard in Roatan (read about the roads above).  It has a unique and beautiful charm to it. The waterfront is lined with adorable multicoloured homes that were literally perched over the deep blue water. A small-town band played at a local bar where people came and went by boat. At one point I was told to go take a look at the washrooms and to bring my camera. I was surprised to find that the toilet was literally a seat on the ocean… remember one of those odd things I mentioned earlier? This makes the list. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t really want to go swimming near this bar.

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There were two places I got to know really well. The Grand Roatan Resort where I enjoyed this delicious Pinã Colada seen above – several times I might add – and Kismet beach at the Meridian which is located in walking distance from where my parents are living. The Grand was perfect for snorkelling due to the fact that the reef is so easily accessible and the waters are so calm and clear. There are always plenty of people around and did I mention they make the worlds best Pinã Colada? I know that’s a serious title, but it deserves it. The Kismet is one of those hidden gems on the tip of the island. Since very few people know of it’s existance, it feels like your own private beach. Most of my photos are from there. I took a ton of pictures of the Ironshore; a fossilized reef wall that jets out from the beach, where you can find tons of crabs and iguanas perched on its sharp edges. Not only is this ancient reef beautiful to look at but it has tons of gorgeous vegetation all around it. I couldn’t resist climbing it to take pictures and I have a few scrapes and bruises to prove it. So worth it! Don’t you agree?

IMG_3634.jpg IMG_3639 IMG_3651.jpgIMG_3658.jpg   IMG_3665.jpg  IMG_3688.jpg  IMG_3690.jpgIMG_3699.jpg tree.jpgIMG_3696My mom and I snorkelled a lot while I was there. It was my first experience snorkelling and I heard that it’s the second largest reef in the world and one of the most beautiful to snorkel and dive in. While I have nothing to compare it to, I was definitely blown away by its beauty. Nothing comes close to the feeling of swimming along the reef looking at all the little details at the bottom of the ocean floor when all of the sudden it drops off into a huge blue abyss that goes on for miles and miles. All you can think of at that very moment is – wow, we are so small in the larger scheme of things, and – is this real life??? There is a whole world under the sea that I can’t wait to explore! I would love to learn how to dive next time I go down there. (Cherie – you’re coming with us!)

IMG_3716IMG_3726.jpgIMG_3729IMG_3733IMG_3742IMG_3747One of the things on the island that stood out the most for me was the amount of dogs roaming the streets. Many of which are strays. This is Buddy (above). He is an island dog that was adopted by an expat who lives next door. Unlike most dogs back home, Buddy spends the majority of his time outdoors. While I know that he is very loved and well taken care of, all I wanted to do was let him come inside with me and snuggle because that is what I am used to. He was such a sweetheart, I fell in love! There are dogs all over the island and I swear, they have better street smarts than I do! They look both ways before crossing streets and know how to swerve between cars. It’s pretty incredible to see, but a little sad. I wanted to bring them all home with me…

IMG_3749IMG_3757It was such a treat to be able to spend a week in Roatan!  Not only did I get to enjoy a tropical vacation with my mom and Larry but I also got to see my pal Oscar! Poor little guy has been dealing with so many health issues, so he couldn’t come with us to the beach like he usually does. He just sat at the door waiting for us to get back.

IMG_3753IMG_3766  I really can’t wait until the next time I can visit again. There was so much I didn’t get to see on this short trip. So many things I didn’t get to capture with my camera, and a ton more memories that are just waiting to be created! Thank you Cherie and Michael for sharing your beautiful house with us! See you soon, you beautiful unexpected paradise!

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DIY Abstract Art on a Budget

I love a good DIY, and i’ve done a few for my new place that I am hoping to post on here sometime soon. I will admit that I came to the realization while making my Ikea Hack nightstand (coming soon), that you don’t always save money. After buying all the supplies, and spending the time doing the work, I realized that I really could have just bought a finished piece at Ikea for the same price. That being said, I really enjoyed the process and the challenge of saying that I can make something, having a vision of how it will turn out and then actually doing it and being proud of the results. It’s thrilling to me, but I know it’s not for everyone. Plus with a DIY, you then have something unique, that you can’t find in a store or anyone else’s home. I don’t know, it really depends how much time you have on your hands and how much importance you put on making things by hand, but personally I know that even if it’s hard work, I am going to keep DIYing because I find it so rewarding and fun!

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I have posted on here a few times this week after being MIA for a while. I guess thats my MO. I get bursts of creativity, and ideas, and energy to make blog posts and then I go into hibernation for a while. I know that I should probably hold off on posting this project for a little while to space out my work, but I’m way too excited, because I really, really love how this project turned out and I feel like anyone can do something like it.
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When I moved into my new place I made two decisions. The first was that I wanted to start being more minimalistic. After reading Marie Kondo’s book; The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up, the idea of only holding onto the things in my life that I loved resonated with me. So when I moved, I only brought the stuff that made me smile into my home, and have been taking my time filling it, so as not to buy unnecessary items. The second thing I decided was that I wanted to make a lot of my own art. In my last apartment I had some of my photography printed and I framed them in simple frames to go above the couch, then over the TV in NYC. I think I might do that again soon, but I also wanted to try my hand at painting because I not only love it but I find it so therapeutic.
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I started doing a little research to find what pieces made my heart flutter. I went on Pinterest and pinned a bunch of art and then tried to zero in on what I really liked about them. I realized I was being drawn to abstract art, simple lines and feminine colours. With that idea in my mind I went to the dollar store (yep, this DIY is really low cost, high impact!) and bought brushes, paint and canvases. This whole project cost me under $20.00, and I ended up with two pieces of personalized art, one extra canvas that I still need to paint, and a ton of paint and supplies left over for future projects. Score! My bedroom has pops of coral, navy, gold and white, so I wanted to use those tones in the artwork to tie the whole room together. I used navy paint from my Ikea Hack Nightstand (which I will get around to posting about as soon as I get to putting the handles on it). I love how the navy in the canvas matches my nightstand perfectly, I also made a coral colour, and bought a light pink and gold.
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I really think that even if you aren’t artistic, you can definitely pull this off with a little research and some planning and this DIY will actually save you a ton of money, because art isn’t cheap.
Here is what you need: 
Several different sized paint brushes
Paint (you need at least 3 different paint colours. I chose gold, navy and coral because those were the colors in my room.
2 canvases
Paint tray
Paper towel or old dish rag
drop cloth

What you need to do:
1. Start by going on pinterest for inspiration, figure out what look you are going for before you start. With a vision in mind it will be a bit easier to get started, but I find once you start it just comes to you and you go with what looks good.
2. Prepare a workspace with a drop cloth to avoid paint splatter on your furniture.
3. Start with one colour on the canvas. I chose to start with the gold. Make several random lines using different brush sizes on the canvas. Continue using other colours to fill in the spaces around it. You can adjust the shades by wiping away excess paint of the canvas in certain parts to fade the colour, or blend colors. Continue adding lines in different thicknesses and lengths, blending where you can to create a cohesive piece.
4. Hang and enjoy.

How do you feel about DIYing? As I mentioned earlier, sometimes it ends up costing more, but is it always about the money or is it about the challenge and fun? I found this article on Huffington post that says to use a flowchart when trying to decide on whether to DIY it or Buy it. Could be a helpful way to decide! Check it out here. 

Simple Orecchiette Pasta Dish with Fennel, Turkey and Broccoli

I’ve been dreading the fact that summer is slipping away and fall is right around the corner, but this week has been so hot and I am just trying to soak it up while I still can! The only issue I have with this heat is cooking in it, since I have no air-conditioning in my apartment. Turning on the oven when its already 100 degrees in my tiny kitchen isn’t ideal, so in order to embrace the heat while it lasts, I’ve been trying to do most of my cooking on the stovetop, and i’ve been choosing quick and easy recipes. That way, I am in and out of the kitchen in a flash and this dish is perfect for that.

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I fell in love with this pasta dish when I got the Carmine’s Family Style Cookbook a few years back. If you have ever been to their restaurant in NYC you will know that it’s one flavour explosion after another. Every recipe in their cookbook is delicious, but their dishes aren’t exactly on the healthy side. Because of that, I try to modify where I can, but I won’t lie… their version of this meal is really, really, really good, so if ever you’re feeling like a cheat night and don’t mind the extra calories, go for it! You won’t regret it (well, maybe a little).

For this regular weeknight meal I wanted it to become something a little healthier, a little quicker and a little lighter.  So while their version calls for nearly a cup of olive oil, mine calls for 4 tbsp, and you know what? The flavours are close enough to the real deal! It’s still bursting with a delicious garlic, fennel olive oil flavour. This is definitely one of my go-to favourite weeknight recipes and it’s just as yummy the next day for lunch!

Simple Turkey Broccoli Orecchiette – Adapted from Carmine’s Family-style Cookbook
Serves 2 to 4

What you need:

3-4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup Orecchiette
1 small head of broccoli cut into 3-inch spears
1 lb ground turkey or if you’re feeling fancy, 1/2 lb of fennel sausage (casings removed).
2-3 cloves coarsely chopped garlic
8 fresh basil leaves sliced
1/2 tsp fennel seeds (if you went for the ground turkey)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup Romano cheese

What you need to do: 

  1. In a large salted pot of boiling water, cook pasta according to the package directions, and add the broccoli spears during the last minute of cooking. Drain and return the pasta and broccoli to the pot.
  2. In a large skillet, add 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, garlic, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, and basil, and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon until browned. 3 to 5 minutes. Then season with salt and pepper.
  3. Toss the turkey with the pasta and broccoli in the pot. Add the remaining olive oil and the 1/2 cup of Romano.
  4. Enjoy!

Green with Envy Smoothie

Can anyone tell I am obsessed with smoothies of the green variation? I can’t get enough of them. Is it just me, or is there something super satisfying about drinking something that is such a bright green colour? You just know it’s good for you and filled with all sorts of nutrients that will keep you going throughout the day.

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While I was living in NYC I was careful where I spent my money. I was there for almost 6 months, and I have to say I never once paid for a smoothie. I had my own blender so I thought it was a waste to spend 10$ for someone else to whip up something so simple, but when I was there a few weekends ago (without my own blender) I was craving one and bit the bullet. I went to the Green Bean Cafe near where I was staying and bought the Green with Envy smoothie packed with kale, banana, spinach, dates and pineapple. Wow! I shouldn’t have waited that long, it was amazing and so close to where I was living, although it’s probably best that I had no idea it existed because I would have been broke. The smoothie was just sweet enough and creamy and so, so tasty. When I got back to Montreal I decided I needed to replicate it right away.

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The best part of this smoothie in my humble opinion, is the dates. They add just the right amount of sweetness that balances the kale really well. I love kale, but if you aren’t fond of its raw flavour but love it’s nutritious value than this smoothie is perfect for you.
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Here’s my version of the Green with Envy Smoothie Adapted from The Green Bean Cafe NYC

{Serves 2}

What you need:

3 dates pits removed
1.5 cups rice milk, almond milk or soy milk
1 banana (I use frozen)
handful of pineapple (I use frozen)
handful of kale washed and de-ribbed.
2 Tbsp Chia seeds

What you need to do:

1. Add the milk in first then the kale, pineapple, banana and dates.
2. blend until nice and smooth (making sure there are no chunks of dates left behind)
3. Add the Chia seeds and blend quickly to incorporate (I do this so they don’t all stick to the sides)
4. Pour and enjoy!