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Echo Lake Camping trip

Echo lake camping

Being an Ottawa wedding photographer, I must admit, it feels so good to go back to my roots in Quebec from time to time. This past weekend, I got to enjoy the calm lakes, the not so calm mockingbirds at 4am and finally setting time to read a Jodi Picoult novel. Curiously though, I didn’t see a single raccoon. Camping has always been an annual family trip. In fact, we have been coming to the same lake for 25 years. So my whole short life. Our annual Echo lake camping trip is a tradition. 

When I was five years old, I remember being so scared of the tiny fishes when I played in the water. (Why would they always come so close to my toes?!) At thirteen, I jumped out on the highest rock for the first time. Where the ‘bigger and cooler kids’ would hang out. I thought jumping like them would make me cool. It didn’t. At twenty two, I remember looking at the stars laying on the beach at night asking character questions to a guy. To see if there was any potential there. Spoiler alert, we got married. So many memories I never want to forget. And I hope I get to visit this place every year until I’m at least eighty-seven.

Nature & time

When I’m on vacation or spending quality time with my family, I want to be present and not distracted. Thus why I don’t pick up my camera or my phone as much. I still wanted to document for myself this magical place that watched me grow up. Perhaps I’m romanticizing a little. This isn’t really a magic lake. Maybe it’s because I’m a quarter century old but I’m noticing more how time flies by. While nature sits back and stays the same, I’ve changed. I mean, tiny fishes don’t make me scream anymore. Progress? I think so.

This photo was taken in 1998. I’m the kid right in the middle of the first row.

Last photo taken by my husband Jordan.

This Echo lake camping trip was photographed by Jessi Lauren an Ottawa wedding Photographer. The photos were taken at Echo Lake in the Papineau-Labelle wildlife reserves.

zero waste lifestyle Ottawa wedding photographer

Zero waste

I was inspired when I heard Lauren Singer’s ted talkShe can fit 4 years worth of trash in one small mason jar. I mean, that’s impressive. Before that, I had never heard of the zero waste movement and now it has changed my life. Zero waste is the practice of not sending anything to landfills. I’ve been slowly incorporating a few things to my lifestyle to reduce the amount of waste I produce. I was able to easily reduce it by 70%.

Here’s 3 easy ways to reduce waste.

– Reusable mug for coffee when I’m out and about. In my world, coffee is a must but the practice of take out coffee is so wasteful. I use a mason jar as a mug and I always get compliments on it. Coffee and compliments, yes sir!

– Bring my own tote bags and reusable produce bags for grocery shopping. I bought my produce bags on Amazon. They’re cute and you can throw them in the washer. Goodbye plastic bags.

– Compost. This is easily where 50% of my waste was coming from. Since I live in an apartment and don’t have a yard, I bring my compost to my mother in law’s garden once a week. 

It’s all about the coffee

Since being an Ottawa wedding photographer, coffee is no joke. I need it but I’ve learnt that not every coffee shop will accept that you bring your own mug. There was a period of trial and error but I had amazing success at Starbucks and gas stations. Starbucks will deduct 10 cents if you bring your own mug and gas stations often have a self serve coffee corner. I usually get a coffee on my way to every wedding I shoot. Earth is our home and I’d like to think we can do better but, If I’m being honest, the real reason I’m joining the zero waste movement is because I really hate taking out the trash. True story. You can ask my husband.

 

Photos by Sara Monika

Lauren Singer’s Ted Talk

Lauren Singer’s zero waste laundry detergent The Simply co

Zero waste youtube channels I love: The girl gone green + Trash is for tossers

Zero waste blog Trash is for tossers

list of goals

list of goals

I’ve always loved a list of goals. Mainly because my goals are so simple and unimpressive that my success rate is high. Hey, it works and that’s good enough for me. For 2017, I’ve decided to focus more on experiences. I’ll try to do as much as I can before my wedding season starts in Ottawa this summer.

– Rent a tiny house for a weekend (less than 350 square feet)

– Photograph couples in love more around lakes and rivers

– Read more classic literature

– Bake a cake that’s edible

– Hike a national park

– Learn a new skill by going to a workshop

– Change my makeup + laundry detergent for cruelty free + toxic free products

I’ll keep you posted with my list of goals near 2018.

list of goals

 This blog post was written by Jessi Lauren an Ottawa wedding Photographer. She photographs weddings in Ottawa, Montreal, Kingston and world wide.

The flask guy – a love story

I wasn’t even unpacked yet. It had been 2 weeks since I came back home from Santo Domingo. During my 3 month trip, my sister Vanessa had met someone. Nothing was official yet but she wanted me to meet him. I did not feel like going out to meet new people that day but I had to see what this Bryan guy looked like.

The flask guy

It was the middle of February when we buzzed at the door of an apartment complex in downtown Ottawa. Jordan, I later learned, came to open the door for us. He said hi to my sisters Vanessa and Natalia and asked if he could take the salad bowl I was carrying. The evening was spent watching New girl while Bryan repaired Vanessa’s cracked Iphone. There were a few more of Bryan’s friends and I saw something that caught my eye. A guy with dark hair was holding a cool looking flask and I went over to talk to him. I learnt that his flask was from amazon and it doubled as a shot glass. I walked away saying: ‘well, if you ever want to buy me a gift, you know what to do’.

It took me months to remember his name after that evening so I just called him the flask guy. We bumped into each other from time to time but it wasn’t until a few months later that our friendship started and another couple months before we started dating. It was at a slow and steady paste that we took steps towards marriage. It still makes me giggle that our story started with him opening the door and me asking him about his flask. At our four months dating anniversary, he gifted me my own flask that matched his.

It came full circle when we had a bit of whiskey from our flasks on our first look. Photo credit Tracey Jazmin

It only felt natural to bring them to Ireland to wicklow nation park.

The flask guy blog post was written by Jessi Lauren an Ottawa wedding Photographer. She photographs weddings in Ottawa, Montreal, Kingston and world wide.

Minimalism

I was never a light packer. If I loved a t-shirt then I had to have it in 5 different colours, and don’t even get me started with shoes. I can look back on it now and say that I was a happy and organized hoarder. I had never heard of minimalism and I would of probably ran if I would of.

Minimalism

I came across minimalism and saw it for the first time at the age of 21 when I travelled to the Dominican Republic to live with 4 girls in a small apartment. You’d think living out of your suitcase for 3 months would make me feel deprived but I felt completely free. I was too busy making memories to care that I was wearing the same 3 tank tops over and over again. This really opened up my eyes and I got to ask myself a few questions I hadn’t considered before.

‘What if I didn’t need a backup plan?  What if things didn’t have a particular meaning? Could I reduce my footprint on this earth by reducing my consumerism? What if I was comfortable with myself? What would my life look like?’

It would look like this. What I own has it’s place and serves to improve my life. Changing my mindset has allowed me to dream bigger because now, I finally have the space to do so.

 

Resources that helped me and blew my mind.

Ted talk: Why I live a zero waste lifestyle by Lauren Singer

The life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo

Youtube chanel The girl gone green

‘Succulent plant’ work of art on my wall in photo by Mowa 

 

This Minimalism blog was photographed by Jessi Lauren an Ottawa wedding Photographer. She photographs weddings in Ottawa, Montreal, Kingston and world wide.

behind the scenes wedding photographer

Behind the scenes

I remember before we started dating, I had broken my Canon 40D. When I told Jordan about it, his opportunity to demonstrate his chivalry didn’t escape him. He offered to fix it for me. A day later, he sent me a photo of the interior of my camera scattered all over the exterior of my camera with a hammer on the side with the caption: ‘It’s going great.’ Fast forward a few years later, Jordan second shoots for me from time to time. As my 2016 wedding season is coming to a close, here are a few behind the scenes shots.

This behind the scenes blog post was written by Jessi Lauren an Ottawa wedding Photographer. She photographs weddings in Ottawa, Montreal, Kingston and world wide.

Ireland travel blog

Ireland travel blog

I had a dream. To travel to Ireland. Last May, for our honeymoon, my husband and I decided to make it happen. I packed my ONA bag with my camera and all of the excitement. I’ve never been a beach lady. I prefer adventures. I just couldn’t wait to see real live Irish sheep and also have the answer to my burning question: Is the grass really that much greener in Ireland? The answer: Yes ! This Ireland travel blog post is truly a dream come true.

When we started planning our trip, we wanted to experience Ireland like locals as much as possible. We did that by renting a small town house through Airbnb right in Dublin. We did our groceries when needed but mostly ate out. Bars in Ireland are as common as Tim Hortons and McDonalds combined. We walked to get breakfast every morning at Moloughney’s. Learning not to order black pudding (fried pig’s blood).

Ireland tourist

We rented a small Fiat for our road trips and yes we thought we were going to die the first time Jordan drove on the left side of the road on the left side of the car. Often, we would leave before sunrise to go visit castles in towns 5-6 hours away. We visited everything we could in the 10 days we were there. And yes, I did watch every rom-com filmed in Ireland I could find. Jordan may have fallen asleep during most of them.

Favourite places in Ireland

It was incredibly difficult to choose my favourite places that we visited but I tried to keep this blog post as short as possible. With this experience, I learnt how much Europe does everything better but also, how insanely gorgeous this planet we call home is. Most of all, the diversity is what makes my heart eager to travel.

 

Malahide castle and gardens was the home of the Talbot family since the 12th century.

Malahide Abbey was the church built for Richard Talbot right next to the castle.

Straight out of a Jane Austen novel. If I do say so myself.

Temple barWhere all the tourists, beer + music were.

Dublin is filled with cherry blossoms in the spring. The rain only made it more beautiful.

The cliffs of moher

On the edge of the world.

My favourite sight.

Wicklow national park. Do you see the tiny human on the left. Good. Now look at the giant tree on your right. How can a tree be that tall. I’m in awe. The drive there had to be my favourite drive of my life. The roads were so narrow driving over an hour surrounded only by hills and trees.

The round tower in Glendalough within Wicklow national park. Built almost a 1000 years ago by Monks of St. Kevin’s monastery. The door is 3.5 meters from the ground. They had a ladder inside to bring people in. It is in near perfect condition even after all this time.

Because when in Ireland, bring your flasks and look for sheep.

Giant’s causeway. This was our last day and we had a flat tire. It took us 7 hours to go back to Dublin with the spare tire and pack our bags for our flight the next day.

Bulmers was my favourite drink. Excuse my awkward hand. This bottle was heavy.

Kilkenny castleCastles are often right in the middle of a town.

Ring a ring a rosie, as the light declines
I remember Dublin city in the rare ould times
-The Dubliners

This Ireland travel blog was photographed by Jessi Lauren an Ottawa wedding Photographer. She photographs weddings in Ottawa, Montreal, Kingston and world wide. If you’re looking for a wedding photographer who has a passion for travel and you love my work, let’s chat!