Top 5 Etsy Shops for Wedding Invitations

With our wedding fast approaching in the beginning of July we are starting to tie up loose ends and make sure that everything is thought of. Planning our wedding has been really seamless so far. We haven’t felt stressed or overwhelmed at all and it has been pretty fun! Then it came time to pick wedding invitations and our difference in taste appeared. I love all things really feminine, floral and clean. He likes more simplicity and not so much “greenery” so I was really having a hard time picking something that we both enjoyed. I looked on Minted.com, Paperless Post and Etsy. In the process I fell in love with a few shops on Etsy that have the most incredible wedding invitation designs.  The greatest part about ordering a template on Etsy is that you can then choose your paper and have it printed locally which saves you money and time! Unfortunately, we couldn’t agree on any of these, and I ended up designing my own wedding suite which combined both of our tastes (which I am really excited about) I still wanted to share them with all of you, because they are really stunning.

White Willow Paper Co.

I love how whimsical these cards are! They are all unique works of art and created locally here in Montreal!

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Georgia Blue Design Co.

I love the modern yet feminine simplicity of these cards!

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La Bohemme Paper Co.

There is a good mix of whimsy and modern simplicity here!

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Alexa Nelson Prints

These are not available in template form, but they are serious works of art and worth every penny in my opinion!

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Shine Invitations

One of my favorites for their modern, sophisticated look. No florals here, but definitely feminine.

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What are your favorite shops on Etsy for invitations?

The 2nd Annual Stroll for Kids With JFK

Once again, I had the pleasure of donating my time by photographing a great event supporting the Just for Kids foundation. Check out the first event I photographed for them here!

This past September on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning in Rembrandt Park, Cote St. Luc, the 2nd annual Stroll for Kids took place. With the sun shining bright, there were a lot of happy faces of all ages to capture! I have been taking part in this non profit organization for the last 9 months, volunteering for the annual hockey tournament and getting the opportunity to take photos. It is the least I can do for such an amazing cause!

For the past 2 years JFK has partnered with Stroll for Kids in a group effort to raise funds to purchase high-priority medical equipment for the Montreal Children’s Hospital. JFK’s fundraising achievements improve the effectiveness of doctors and nurses on a daily basis and help parents sleep better knowing that their children are getting the best possible care. To find out more, please visit www.jfkfoundation.ca.

This year over 500 participants strolled on Sunday September 25th. The Stroll was not only sold out but it succeeded in raising a whopping $180,000 in support of JFK to benefit the MCH. Featured in my photos are only a handful of the many faces and only few of the several sponsors who helped make the event possible. Local Montreal sponsors including RustiqueRichter, Urban Bonfire, Sumac, Mouton Noir Catering and ReJuice and the international brand; Keurig are just to name a few. You can find out about the rest of the sponsors, and see all of the photos from the event on the Stroll for Kids Facebook Page!

Here are some of my favourite shots of the day. Enjoy!

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Non-Toxic Makeup Routine

A couple of years ago I discovered the Environmental Working Group. A non-profit, non-partisan organisation dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. With groundbreaking research, it guides consumers to make healthy choices and helps us understand what is in the things we consume and the products we use. I soon realized that in the beauty world, the word “organic”, didn’t really mean non-toxic, and that a lot of the products I thought were good for me, were actually filled with scary ingredients like formaldehyde and parabens (both labelled as carcinogens).

I decided it was time for a change, so I started doing research and began paying attention to the ingredients in the products I was buying. EWG has a great app which gives you the option of scanning a product or entering its name into the search bar. It then shows you a score in terms of its health concern. The rating system is from 1-10. 1 – being a low concern and as clean as it gets, and 10 – being a high concern and quite hazardous for your health. They break down products by their ingredients and rate each one individually. I started researching the products I was using on a daily basis and was shocked to find out that none of them were clean… My makeup bag was in need of a serious makeover!

Since I am not one to waste, I decided to replace my products one at a time. I would use my old products up until they were finished and replace them with a clean alternative. Over the last 2 years I have replaced each and every product in my makeup routine. I have now curated a non-toxic makeup collection and a simple everyday routine that is good for me and my health! I thought it would be fun to share it with you. Here is my personal roundup of clean makeup for an every day, dewy, sun kissed look:

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  1. I start with the Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigments Illuminating Primer made with coconut alkanes instead of silicones and botanical juices. Primer is a great way to even out my skin and get it ready for foundation and concealer and this one is great. It hasn’t been rated by EWG but I checked all of the ingredients and they are all a 1 or 2 rating.
  2. I use RMS Beauty “Un” Cover-Up in #22 as a concealer for my everyday routine, but it doubles as a foundation so when I am going out and I want to look more made up I will apply it all over my face. Daily, I dab this under my eyes and over redness or blemishes. This is the product I started my clean transformation with and I love it. It’s light weight, spreads evenly and looks really natural. It’s made with ingredients like coconut and castor seed oil, beeswax, and cocoa seed butter. It has a rating of 1 on the EWG site.
  3. For bronzer, I had been using the Bare Minerals Warmth powder for many years, which is actually a good rating of 2, but I loved my RMS concealer so much, I switched to their Buriti Bronzer which is a really lightweight cream bronzer that seeps into my skin and feels great. It too is made with all natural ingredients including coconut and castor seed oil, beeswax, and cocoa seed butter.
  4. For a natural blush to my skin I use bareMinerals Blush in “Hint” which also has a rating of 1. It goes on really nicely and has a warm pink hue.
  5. To add some depth to my cheeks and create a nice dewy look, I use the W3LL People Bio Brightener Stick. I love the way this product illuminates and enhances my cheek and brow bones and it has a rating of 1 and is EWG verified!
  6. For my eyes  I use the Alima Pure Satin Matte Eyeliner in Soft Inky black and apply it as an eyeliner by using a liner brush dipped in water. It can also be used as a powder for a smokey look. It has a rating of 1 on the EWG site.
  7. Finally I swipe on some Organic Wear mascara by Physicians Formula which I buy at the pharmacy, in black. This product is great, cruelty free and has a rating of 1 of EWG

For a daily makeup routine that’s fast and natural looking, these products do the best job, and if you’re like me, and live in Canada, you know that these products are not as readily available as they are in the states. Luckily, I recently discovered Detox Market, which is a great website for all things clean! I am able to find the majority of my items there and the rest are in stores near me; like Annie Young, Sephora, the pharmacy and Holt Renfrew.

Do you have any non-toxic beauty favourites to share?

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

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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Phil and Hadley’s Wedding

A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to be assistant coordinator at Phil and Hadley’s Wedding with Shauna of Paisley Promotions. It was such a fun experience, and because of that, I am going to make sure it’s not the last time I get involved in something like it! I had a blast working with Shauna and loved how the whole wedding came together. I can’t take credit for the amazing planning that went into it, that’s all Paisley Promotions, but it was really fun to help make the dream into a reality!

The couple was adorable and down to earth and their rustic, boho inspired wedding was pure simplicity at its best. Madeline Druce captured the whole night and if you haven’t heard of her, check out her work, it is amazing! Just look at these two shots that she captured of the bride and groom.

The couple chose a gorgeous spot on Parc Jean Drapeau that is home to the Tour de Lévis, a 1930’s historical landmark, which if you can handle walking up the 157-step staircase to the observation deck, will dazzle you with its breathtaking 360-degree views of the river, downtown Montreal, the biosphere, the beautiful Jacques Cartier bridge and all the surrounding areas. I definitely felt it in my legs the next day after walking up and down those stairs several times throughout the night. Great workout!

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When I first saw the site a few weeks before the wedding I had a hard time imagining how it would all look, which was frustrating because I am usually really good at visualizing, but aside from the tower; the piece de resistance, it was a very basic, open space that almost resembled a camp ground. As the tents began going up though, the pieces of the puzzle started coming together, and I began to see that it was going to become a very magical space, and it did. It went from nothing special, to spectacular in a few hours. It’s amazing how a lot of creativity, careful planning and hard work can do that.

The ceremony took place in a clearing in front of the tower that was surrounded by trees, brush and grass. Bohemian carpets were laid down for people to sit on and rose petals formed an aisle for the bride and groom to walk down. Phil and Hadley stood under two cherry trees that drooped to form a canopy under which they said their I do’s. Dinner was served in a large tent with huge rustic wood tables and chairs, simple wild flower centrepieces and magical string lights that warmed the tent with a gentle yellow glow. After dinner and some dancing the cake was cut in front of the tower and the bridal party made their way up the many stairs to the observation deck. There, they all had  the perfect view of the fireworks going on at La Ronde that night. It was all very romantic. The rest of the evening was spent dancing the night away under an open tent adorned by more magical string lights and a bar that kept the drinks flowing.

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Once everyone had danced enough to feel hungry again, dessert was served inside the medieval tower. The rain held off until the early hours of the morning when no one cared about the way they looked anymore, they were just happy to feel a nice breeze and some cool, wet drops on their faces. Everyone seemed so happy and carefree and the night really couldn’t have gone any better from my point of view.
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Often it’s the simpler things in life that end up being the best things and this wedding was a testament to that! I love how so much work went into making the night feel effortless, relaxed and simple. It just proves a job well done.

Congratulations to Phil and Hadley

Special thanks goes to Dansereau Traiteur for the incredible food that night. Every little thing was beyond delicious and the presentation was phenomenal, and to Eventex for going above and beyond their mandate that evening. Amazing work.

Side note: My photos were all taken on the fly with my iPhone camera so while they aren’t of the best quality, they do manage to give a good idea of the vibe of the night!

Tropical Melon Blast Smoothie

It has been a windy road these past few months. There have been ups, many downs and sharp turns in unpredictable directions, explaining why I haven’t contributed to this little space of mine on the internet in over 3 months. At least I have stayed active on Instagram, right? My last post was from when I was still living in NYC and I can’t believe it has been that long since I have been back home in Montreal. So many things have happened in such a short amount of time and i’ve faced a lot of challenges and forks in the road along the way. With that, I have learned some valuable lessons and am coming to terms with the fact that life is just one big surprise and that the key to living a happy life is to not take it all too seriously and roll with the punches, but ask me if I find that easy?? At least I am working towards it becoming my mantra, and that alone has made me a happier person. I can say that for sure.

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I am finally starting to settle down now after being in complete limbo for the past 3 months. With all these big changes happening all at once, the challenge is finding my rhythm again, but as the dust settles I am finding it easier and easier to get back into my old, but good routines, like making weekly meal plans so that I spend less and eat well and making fruit and veggie packed smoothies every morning to start the day off on the right foot. Here’s where the point of this post comes in. While I don’t think smoothies need a recipe, sometimes the concoctions you come up with need to be written down so they can be enjoyed again and again, and this is one of them! I’m a smoothie fan, not only for their delicious nutritional value, but because they are a really convenient way to stay full in between breakfast and lunch while at work. You can just sip on them in between phone calls and emails, it’s great!

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Having recently learned about FODMAP’S (Click to learn more) I wanted to create a smoothie using only low fodmap fruits and veggies. Having a fickle stomach, which I am sure many of you can relate too, I want to see if this could be a solution for me. Haven’t figured that out yet, but i’ll keep you posted.

This smoothie is packed with sweet honeydew, hearty kale and a tropical twist with banana and pineapple and some chia seeds for that extra nutritious boost. This is a super refreshing drink to have on a hot summers day. Hope you enjoy it!

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Tropical Melon Blast Smoothie

(Serves 2)

1 cup of cubed Honeydew

1 cup of frozen pineapple

1/2 frozen banana

Small handful of kale (ribs removed)

1 cup of rice milk

2 tbsp chia seeds

Blend all the ingredients together and serve it up nice and cold for a nutritious morning or afternoon snack!