Snapshots of Life Lately and to New Adventures

I don’t really talk much about my personal life on this blog, I’ve used it more as a way to express myself creatively, but I realized that my favourite blogs are the one’s that delve a little deeper. So my goal for this year is to open up just a little more on here. As you may already know, or have figured out from my photos here and on Instagram, I have been temporarily living in NYC the past couple of months with Zack. I knew that after 6 months, if I could’t find a way to extend my visa I would have to leave, and unfortunately my time here is coming to an end. Fortunately, an opportunity came up for me right at the perfect time to go somewhere new, which makes the whole thought of leaving a lot more palatable! For my next adventure, I will be moving to Vancouver! Having lived in Quebec my whole life, minus the few years I lived in Florida before I was 5,  going somewhere new seems like the right thing to do. I always love a new adventure and luckily I have family and a few friends there. I have actually never been to the west coast of Canada, so this will be my first time visiting Vancouver, let alone living there but I have heard only amazing things about the city so I am really eager to explore and find out what it’s all about for myself.  While I am still living in NYC for a couple of weeks, I am going to try and soak it up as much as possible. Here are some snapshots of life lately.

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I am used to a good snowstorm, being from Montreal. Our winters are always long, cold and very snowy but I wasn’t expecting that to be the case in NYC. Unfortunately it has been just as bad here and despite how much I hate winter, I love how beautiful it looks especially in this city. I always feel like I’m walking through a movie set here, the history is so fascinating that I can’t go anywhere without imagining what it must have looked like in the 1800’s and I often stare in awe at the buildings wondering how they were built with such limited resources and how long they have lasted to tell the tale! So inspiring.

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When the snow falls and blankets the streets, trees and buildings, it quiets the bustling city sounds. It was really only then that I realized how many ambient sounds I was hearing on a daily basis in this city. Back at the end of January when we were experiencing what was supposed to be one of the worst snowstorms of the century, “Snowmageddon” (which you know, ended up being a total dud of a storm) the city shut everything down as a precaution at 11pm. I laughed because these storms are a typical winter occurrence in Montreal but it was actually a really amazing experience. We went out to walk Winslow and realized that the city that never sleeps was asleep. It was so surreal and the snow made everything all the more quiet. I snapped a shot of the empty street which you can check out here.
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Everywhere you turn there’s something to feast your eyes on from the architecture to the stonework, to the rod iron fences and the views, to the fact that you can stand in the middle of the street and have an unobscured view to other side of the city (it’s unique grid layout is fascinating). There is just so much to see in one place that it’s almost overwhelming at times.

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There’s always something worth capturing here, and like I mentioned in my last Snapshots of Life Lately post, I don’t carry my DSLR camera around with me very often because it’s bulky, but I do snap pictures with my iPhone constantly. I will miss that in a big way.

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There are so many things I will miss about New York. From it’s energy to it’s beauty, to the fact that you can get anything you want delivered to your door and I mean anything… starbucks coffee, fro-yo, a chocolate chip cookie, your groceries, your laundry, alcohol… you name it. That you can drop your laundry off and it will be washed and folded for you for pretty much the same price as you would pay doing it yourself at a laundry mat. That you can get a Mani-Pedi for 20$. That there is always an exhibit, book signing, concert or event to attend and that you can walk the streets for hours and never get bored of the views. There are so many other things, but I’ll stick to those for now.
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I am always excited to try new things, so I am eager to start the next chapter of my life in Vancouver, but I am leaving behind a lot of greatness, especially Zack and Winslow and while I don’t know what life will throw my way next (no one ever does), I just keep reminding myself that what is meant to be will be. All we can do is keep pushing forward and I have so many great memories to carry with me that I’ll never forget. I am really grateful for the 6 months I got to spend in one of the greatest cities in the world, and look forward to discovering a whole new one. So here’s to new adventures!

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Mickey Smith: Darkside of the Lens

Sometimes you come across something that speaks to you, that moves you in one way or another. Something that sends chills down your spine, and you feel some sort of connection to it. I remember watching this short film for the first time over 4 years ago, and feeling just that. I was in the final year of my undergrad degree and I was at a point where my career was all I was thinking about. Fast forward 4 years and nothing has really changed, I still think about my career all the time and this film still brings chills down my spine. Figuring out what it is you want to do for the rest of your life is a big deal, and while money is an important factor, it has never been my driving force. I believe that if you love doing something, the money will come through the passion, drive and focus you have for what you are doing. If you care about something enough you can move mountains and you won’t mind the hardships that may come, because you know in the end they will all be worth it. This is what came across to me in Darkside of the Lens and why it spoke to me so much.

“If I only scrape a living, at least it’s a living worth scraping. If there is no future in it, at least it’s a present worth remembering. The fires of happiness, the waves of gratitude. For everything that brought us to that point on earth at that moment in time, to do something worth remembering with a photograph, or a scar. I feel genuinely lucky to hand on heart say I love doing what I do. And though I may never be a rich man, if I live long enough, i’ll certainly have a tale or two for the nephews. I dig the thought of that.”

-Mickey Smith

Mickey Smith, a surf photographer released this short film, quietly on the internet in 2010. What was created for his nephews in memory of his sister, who was his biggest fan, ended up winning multiple awards and drawing heavy attention to his work from all corners of the globe.

Every aspect of this film is beautiful. The narration alone is powerful, but combined with the mind blowing imagery of a cold, wet paradise it delivers a strong message of passion, gratitude, determination and the desire to do something that is worth living for.

If there is anything that keeps me motivated to continue searching for that passion, to continue practicing gratitude, and to take full advantage of the cards i’m dealt every step of the way, it’s this film.

Enjoy,

Darkside Of The Lens from mickey smith on Vimeo.

Tatyana Druz: The Point of No Return

I came across this photo the other day and my heart actually skipped a beat. The photo was taken by amateur photographer Tatyana Druz. I couldn’t find much information on her except that she is from Hadera, Israel. You can find her on Facebook and check out her website here.

This photograph captures so many emotions; trust, love, passion, fear, adventure… You have no idea where they are, or how high up they are. The way the woman is wrapped around the man leads me to believe that she trusts him completely with what is about the happen, she may feel fear but she is safe in his arms. The man’s back is turned to what lies ahead but he has a sense of adventure and is taking a leap of faith, bringing her along for the ride. He looks relaxed and in full control of the situation about to unfold, which is unknown to him. The composition and imagery of this photograph is stunning.

Art is so subjective, so I am curious, what do you get from this image? What emotions does it provoke in you?

Chocolate Cupcakes with a Vanilla Swirl Icing

I am a sucker when it comes to a good chocolate cupcake, I find there is something nostalgic about them, and this recipe does the trick! It really brings me back to my childhood when there would be a birthday party to go to every other weekend. I love this recipe for its simplicity, and since the cupcakes are not overly sweet, the fluffy vanilla icing on top ends up becoming the perfect sugary balance. I found the recipe on Sweetapolita, a baking blog that I can look at for days! Check out this amazing cake! Inspiring right?
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This weekend was a big one for us. We hosted a Super Bowl party at our place and went all out with the food. I think there will be leftovers for weeks! It was really the first time we entertained for that many people and it definitely won’t be the last.  I was going to get all creative with the dessert, seeing so many great ideas on Pinterest that blew me away, but I decided to stick to simplicity with a swirled blue frosting to go with the team colours. The blue should have been darker, but nobody complained. I also added some red sprinkles on top at the last minute for the Patriot fans in the room.
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This is no healthy dessert like my last delicious recipe I posted here, I won’t lie, but I don’t mess around when it comes to nostalgia. And lets be honest, it was the Super Bowl and I wasn’t about to introduce some healthy dessert to a room full of hungry men.

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I decided to do a swirled icing on top so it was a little more interesting and I think it turned out pretty nicely despite my lack of piping skills, don’t you think?  It’s definitely something I want to practice. There are so many amazing things you can do with a piping bag! Next time I make these, i’ll use a wider tip so the three colours can be better defined and maybe add more icing per cupcake for height and drama. All in all I was really happy with the flavour and look of these little guys and I think everyone at the party was too.

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If you’ve been looking for a classic chocolate cupcake/frosting combo, this is one to bookmark. Whether you know someone with a birthday coming up or you are hosting a party like I did, or even just looking for an excuse to bake cupcakes (you can always find an excuse to bake cupcakes), you have to give this one a try!

The Nostalgic Chocolate Cupcake Adapted from Sweetapolita

(makes 12)

  • 3/4 cup (95 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) dark cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) brewed coffee or espresso, hot
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) pure vanilla extract

Fluffy Vanilla Swirl Frosting adapted from Sweetapolita

  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups (375 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons (45 ml) milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Few drops of food colouring in colours of your choice

Heres what you need to do: 

For the Cupcakes

1. Preheat oven to 350° F and line a muffin/cupcake pan with cupcake liners
2. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift in the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch and salt
3. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, egg and vanilla.
4. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix them for 2 minutes on medium speed carefully because it tends to splash. Divide batter among (2/3 full or just less) liners. Batter will be liquidy, and cupcakes will rise.
5. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs. Try not to over-bake. Carefully remove cupcakes from the pan immediately (it’s hot!), and place them on a wire rack until completely cool.

For the Frosting 

1. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 6 minutes. Try not to eat too much of it in the process.
2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt, and beat on low speed until well combined, then increase the speed to medium and beat until very light and fluffy once again, about 6 more minutes.

To decorate the cupcakes
1. Divide the frosting into 3 parts. Tint 2 of them in shades of your choice and leave the last one white.
2. Into a medium or large pastry bag fitted with a large closed star tip, add a spatula-full of each frosting colour I used this tutorial to help me out. Twist the top of the bag and pipe a generous swirl on each cupcake, working in a circular motion from the outside in.
Note: The cupcakes will keep at room temperature in a container with some airflow for up to 3 days.
Enjoy!

A Healthier Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwich

I am not really one to sit down and make resolutions, but the New Year feels like the perfect time to hit reset and get back on track with what is important to me. Lately my health has been front and centre and while I’m already healthy, there is always room for improvement! My intentions are to begin to learn about whole foods in a deeper way by really understanding their individual health benefits. I also want to experiment more with my cooking by using natural ingredients in new and exciting ways! But my main goal right now is to reduce how much refined sugar I eat, because I won’t lie, I really LOVE sugar! Being a big believer in balance I let myself indulge in the sweet stuff since I know I’m healthy the rest of the time, but with a history of diabetes in my family, my sugar cravings are beginning to worry me and I want to be more aware and careful. While I’m no where near wanting to quit sugar all together, I do want to try and eat more natural sugars so that when I have a craving for sweets, I can indulge in a little less harmful way! This sweet recipe is a great start!

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These cookies are a healthier twist on a version I attempted to make a while ago. I got a great shot for instagram out of it, see here, but tried making them while I had a friend over and ended up making chocolate cupcakes… I know, kind of ridiculous, but I was mindlessly looking at two recipes while chatting away…I pulled a Rachel Green from Friends! Remember her meat and whipped cream trifle?? At least mine ended up being delicious chocolate cupcakes which I was able to share with colleagues and friends. Let’s just say I’ve been very mindful while baking since.

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This weekend I finally got around to making my own version of these cookies. I swapped out the brown and white sugar for raw honey, maple syrup and a dash of molasses, adding natural sweetness. I also swapped out the butter for coconut oil, and omitted the egg for flaxseeds which when mixed with water creates an egg like substance, and has a ton of health benefits including being high in phytochemical’s, omega 3 and fiber! I was not sure how they would turn out, but was pleasantly surprised with the results! My original plan was to pair them with a vegan frosting, but I think I pushed it too far. The icing came out weird and didn’t really compliment the flavours of the cookies, so I went back to tradition and made a cream cheese frosting but without the butter. Match made in heaven! Not as “healthy” as I wanted but having only used 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar, I figured, it’s not THAT bad right?

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Warm spices, sweet carrots and plump raisins make these cookies so comforting! I left out the rolled oats, but would love to add them in the next time I make these! If you like walnuts, those would be perfect in here as well, I just didn’t have any on hand. These cookies are soft and fluffy with a traditional carrot cake flavour and when paired with the cream cheese frosting sandwiched in between, it’s clear that these two flavours belong together (sorry vegan icing).

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Carrot Cake Cookies (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Makes about 12 sandwiches

1/4 cup raw honey
2 tbsp Molasses
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1 tbsp flaxseed meal (which you can make yourself by grinding flaxseeds in a food processor)
3 tbsp warm water
1 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cups finely grated carrots, (about 1.5-2 large carrots)
1/2 cup raisins

Heres what you need to do:

1. In a small bowl, whisk the flaxseed meal and warm water with a whisk or fork and let sit for 5-10 min so it develops a gelatinous texture similar to a raw egg.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine honey, maple syrup, molasses and coconut oil; beat until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add flaxseed egg and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until well combined.

3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger; stir to combine. Gradually add flour to wet mixture; mix on a low speed until just blended. With a spatula, mix in carrots, and raisins. Chill dough in refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.

4. Meanwhile near the end of the cooling process, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside. Prepare cream cheese frosting (see below)

5. When the mixture has cooled completely, Using a 1/2-ounce ice-cream scoop, or a tablespoon scoop dough onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Transfer to oven, and bake until browned and crisped, rotating pan halfway through baking to ensure even color, 8-10 minutes. Make sure not to let them burn.

6. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat baking process with remaining dough. Once cooled completely, use an offset spatula to spread about 2 teaspoons of cream-cheese filling (see below) onto a cookie. Sandwich together with a second cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Cream Cheese Frosting

3/4 cups of cream cheese
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Here’s what you need to do:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine all the ingredients on med- high speed until fluffy and well combined. You may have to scrape down the sides a couple of time. 2-4 minutes.

Snapshots of Life Lately

I take a lot of photos to say the least. I am a very visual person and while I love looking back at photos throughout my life, I really do it because I love the art of photography itself. I am self taught and learning more and more each and every day. I will be honest though, on a day to day basis I shoot with my iPhone and then post to Instagram. I do this because it’s so simple and instantly rewarding. The iphone takes beautiful photos, it fits in your pocket, you can edit them right there on the spot and then upload them without having to do much more… pretty easy! That being said I also really appreciate photography that takes a little more time, with a little more thought behind it. I have a DSLR camera that I love very much, and while I mostly use it to take photos of food for the blog (you can check them out here), I try and take it out with me every so often so that I can mix it up a bit and get creative. I always learn something new when I do that! It’s a little more work than using my good old iPhone, but it’s much more rewarding. I thought it would be fun to start sharing some of them on the blog! Here are a few shots I snapped recently!

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This is my baby Winslow – If you follow me on Instagram, you know he’s one of my best posers!

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This is my cousin Shira at NYFW. Portrait Photography practice

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I love the way the water acts as a mirror after a storm.

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Shadow Play

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Survival of the fittest

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Another one of my cousin Shira. Portrait photography practice, but without reflectors or lights it’s hard to not have harsh shadows.

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What do you love photographing most?

Some Goals for the New Year

Happy 2014! I don’t know about you, but I always take this time of year as an opportunity to openly think about what I want to work on.  This year, two of my New Years resolutions are to finish more projects that I start and to create more, starting with this blog. It has been over a year since I began Luxe and Honey, and I am not posting nearly as frequently as I want to. I have so many excuses from: “I work during the day, so it’s hard to shoot in optimal lighting (I prefer daylight, doesn’t everyone?), to “I work full time so when can I sit down in peace and quiet and actually come up with content?” I also do a lot of starting posts and then not going through with them because I don’t think they are worth posting… Anyways the list goes on, but I think that’s enough for the purpose of this post.The point is, we all have excuses for everything. It’s easy to come up with reasons why we can’t do things, but there is always a way to make it happen, so I really want to try and post more in 2014 and I hope you will enjoy what I put forth! I recently got a new 50mm camera lens for my Canon Rebel and it has made a world of difference. Here are some shots I snapped with it, Enjoy!

the photo on the left is of my living room in the best natural light (remember, I only like to shoot in this light). At around noon everyday my whole apartment seems to get the most beautiful light. I always wanted a space that had a ton of natural light, and this place really takes the cake. We have a skylight in the entrance, big windows in every room, and nothing obstructing the sun from entering in. Isn’t it lovely? The photo on the right is of my baby Winslow, he’s just turned 6 months at the end of January, and while he’s the cutest handful you’ll ever meet, he is one of my favorite things to snap photo’s of. The trick is in the treats, hold one in front of him, and he will pose like a professional model!

O.k  so I LOVE fresh flowers and  even that is a bit of an understatement. I try to have them in my home at all times, they just make me feel so happy when I come home. Especially this time of year, when it reaches -38 C outside and I come in and the first thing I see are these bright, beautiful flowers in my entrance and living room.The flowers on the left are called Alstroemeria’s and they are my favourite choice since they are very affordable ($10.00 for a huge bunch at Costco) and because they literally last 2 weeks! I Love them.

I am really looking forward to accomplishing my goals for 2014, snapping more photos with my new lens this year, and can’t wait to keep improving my photography skills!

What kind of resolutions have you come up with for 2014?