Thai Curry Corn Chowder!

30 September 2013

The air is starting to get a chill and the rainy season is coming in with a vengeance.  It's the time of year to cuddle up under blankets with a good book.  It's also the time of year to when few things really hit the spot for me like a big warm bowl of soup.  Soup is such a versatile thing that is ripe with endless possibilities.  Soup season is a time to get creative and find new ways to break out the stockpot and experiment with finding that perfect match up of flavors and textures that just hit that spot right down in your soul.

This week, I happen to have found one of my new favorite comfort foods - Thai style curry corn chowder.  It combines two of my greatest loves (classic corn chowder + curry) into a dynamic, spicy, creamy bowl that is sure to warm even the coldest of nights.  I will never look at corn chowder the same!

Thai style curry corn chowder

Obviously coconut milk is a tried and true paring for curry because it adds that sweet creaminess that cuts the spice just a bit and makes it balance.  Add some sweet corn & potatoes, and you are in for a bowl of magic. 

I am sometimes a little overwhelmed by heavy cream-based soups, so I really love that this recipe substitutes the traditional heavy cream in corn chowder for coconut milk and you really don't miss the dairy one bit.  The coconut milk creates a beautiful thick, sweet creamy texture when your puree it with the corn and potatoes that is just about identical to the traditional American recipe.  It's hearty and filling without being so overwhelming.  The fish sauce is added to pair with the curry take the sweet corn and coconut milk flavor down to a more savory and complexly layered flavor in the soup. 

Thai Curry Corn Chowder
Makes about 8 servings

6 cups vegetable stock
3 ears of corn (or 4 cups frozen or canned kernals)
1 large russet potato - peeled and diced
1 red pepper - diced
1 small onion - diced
1 can (14oz) coconut milk
1 tablespoon red or green curry paste
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional - replace with 1 teaspoon hosin sauce or Braggs for a vegan soup)
cilantro & jalapeno to garnish

Cut the corn kernels of the cob (here's a tip to make that a cinch!). 
Add your stock to a large pot and bring it up to a simmer.
Meanwhile, in a saute pan, add butter and saute all your veggies for about 10 minutes until they brown up and get soft.
Add 1/2-3/4 of your vegetables, the coconut milk, fish sauce, and curry to the stock.  The fish sauce adds a savory element to the sweet corn and coconut milk, but you can omit that if you want a sweet soup.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Use a stick blender or food processor and blend your soup until you get nice smooth consistency. Add the remaining vegetables to add texture.  Cook for another 5 minutes.
Garnish with cilantro and/or jalapenos.

You can also add shrimp or shredded chicken if you'd like, but I found it just perfectly hearty without the meat.  It reheats really nicely, so it's a perfect make ahead meal or you can freeze individual portions.  Enjoy!

What are your favorite fall/winter comfort foods?

Weekly Wishes : Hello Autumn!

23 September 2013

Yesterday marks the official day of fall.  It has been an amazing summer full of adventures and beautiful moments, but I am really looking forward to quiet fall afternoons cozied up under blankets with a cup of tea. For me, fall also means welcoming the rainy season back to Portland and pulling out my rain boots and pretty umbrellas.

I have been wanting to participate in the amazing Melyssa's weekly wishes link up for awhile now and today seemed like the perfect day to start a new tradition, particularly since this next week's theme is happiness.

This week, I want to embrace the changing of the seasons with open arms.  Instead of resisting the end of summer, I want to be excited about the months to come and I want to enjoy all the little things autumn will bring.  I want to decorate for Halloween this week and get into the spirit of chilly nights and warm colors.  I also want to take the time to decorate my new little office and work and make it a space full of celebration and happiness.

Simple fall pleasures I am looking forward to right now...

fall scents
cardigans & scarves
warm colors and decorations
chai tea
baking season
cozy slippers and blankets
picking the perfect pumpkin
cute umbrellas
dog snuggles
breaking out the crockpot
apple picking
warm pie
cute dog costumes
starting holiday crafting and gift shopping

This week, I am going to embrace all of these lovely things, decorate, and make plans for cute fall activities.  It's a really simple thing, but I want to start this season off on the right foot!

What are you guys looking forward to about fall?

Wedding Detail: "Take Care" Basket

20 September 2013

One of the things that I value at a party is that my guests are happy & comfortable.  In order to be able to do that and make sure any need that could arise was covered, I decided to make a little "take care" basket for my guests.  It was one of my favorite little details for the day and it was simple to put together with a big impact on making guests feel welcomed and cared for.

Nothing is worse than being at a lovely event, but having a nagging problem that you just can't fix, so we tried our best to cover everything from aching feet to broken nails.

The basket was simple.  It was an old picnic basket that I linked with pretty lace and made a little banner on the front that said "take care" with some cute little bird cut outs.  The contents are really anything that you think would make your guests most comfortable at your event.

Here is what was inside:
-bug spray
-several pairs of flip flops
-paper fans
-hand sanitizer
-a collection of medicines (I used a collection from Help Remedies because their packaging is darling and they offer everything from allergy tabs to blister pads)
-a stain stick
-a small first aid kit
-nail files

It was a big hit and most importantly I think it really sent a message of caring and support to our guests.

Wedding Detail: DIY Painted Wedding Shoes

15 September 2013

Painted wedding shoes!

One of my very favorite details of the wedding was my shoes.  I really wanted to take my simple white shoes and turn them into something unique and special that would be a little added surprise when I walked down the isle.  I decided to enlist the help of my amazing artist husband to be and made these really simple, but amazing custom wedding shoes!

All you need:
A pair of shoes of your choice : canvas or satin will work best
a pencil
an oil based paint pen
acrylic paint & brush

This is kind of a percarious task, it takes a little bit of gusto to just go ahead and just do it and paint on those beautiful shoes, but you have to just dive right in!  I chose simple and inexpensive shoes because I really felt like rather than splurging on fancy shoes, I wanted my WOW to be in the personalization and it made me less nervous to make a mistake ;)

We started by using pencil to outline the design.  In our case, we kept it simple with the heart and banner that matched our theme and was kind of reminecient of classic tattoo art that I love. The heart was filled in with a simple inexpensive acrylic art paint.  Next, we used the paint pen to outline and write the text out.  We found that the paint pen was the easiest way to get a nice fine controlled line.

That's it!  Its actually quite simple to make some amazing showstopper shoes that reflect your personality!  

Do they last and hold up?  I don't really know.  I can't promise that if you wore them many times or took a dip into a deep puddle that they wouldn't run, but they are perfect for that one special wear.

How I Had the Wedding of My Dreams for Less than $5,000 : Part 2

10 September 2013

Yesterday, I shared a bit of the ways that I was able to balance my budget for an amazing wedding for a small fraction of what the average wedding costs.  I really believe that you can have an amazing wedding with any budget.


We scored a groupon for our photobooth. I was going to try to DIY one to save money, but in the end, I am really glad we splurged a little to have it just taken care of and the photos were so special to me.
Plus it gave our friends a bunch of ridiculous props to play with throughout the night

I also was able to find a great photographer who was able to make a special package for me once I told her my budget. We decided to limit our time with the professional to save money - she did our official family & couple portraits, the ceremony, and then just the first bit of the reception. We also asked some of our talented photographer friends to try to take some shots and focus more on the fun candids from the reception. We ended up with so many amazing and beautiful photos.

I am really big on gratitude.  For me, the wedding was not only about my husband and I, but also about our friends and family that had supported us and taught us how to love...without them, we wouldn't really be what we are as a couple.  I wanted the wedding to be about showing them gratitude and celebrating them as well as our marriage, so the little touches of favors were a big deal to me.

We did favors in two ways, the first was that as soon as the guests arrived, I wanted to set the tone of fun, playfulness, and appreciation.  I decided to get a water ice cart to come out and serve treats to the guests as they arrived.  In case you don't know, water ice (you say it "wooter ice") is a Philadephia version of italian ice - it's like if sorbet and sno cones had a baby, it would be water ice.  It was not only a treat to my guests, but also an homage to where I grew up.  We had little wooden spoons stamped with our initials to serve with it.  Our guests loved it.

The other favor was jam.  Obviously if you read this blog, you probably know that canning is near and dear to my heart so it seemed only logical.  Rather than make 70 small jars of jam on my own, I reached out to a few friends who I had taught to can and they each agreed to make a couple dozen jars that summer for me.  It was a really lovely way to have them participate and celebrate a shared love.  I printed custom little "spread the love" jar toppers for each one and put them out for the guests to take.

I like flowers, they are pretty, but they are so expensive and they die so quickly so I just couldn't justify putting much into a floral budget. I had an amazing contact that is a florist, so he took me to the wholesale floral market the day before the wedding and we just bought some inexpensive wildflowers in our colors. I stocked up on mason jars & pretty miscellaneous vintage glassware before the wedding and my mother took on the project of making mixed bouquets to put around our tables.  Nothing about it was very preplanned, but the results were lovely.

Rentals & Thrifting
Always be sure to ask your venue what kind of rentals are included!  Renting chairs, tables, linens, and so on can really add up quickly and can take a huge chunk of the budget.  We were lucky to have a great budget venue with ample tables and chairs that came with it, so I know that saved us quite a bit in the long run.  We also opted to buy inexpensive linens and then resell them after the wedding, which saved me about $75.

I am a thrift store addict and I gave myself a lot of time to plan in part so that I had time to identify what kinds of things I wanted for the wedding and get great deals on them. I was also so lucky to be have Something Borrowed in my city. I was able to get tons of amazing vintage style details without having to buy all of it. The key was getting creative and thinking about how to use simple, inexpensive items and make them part of a special display.  We used vintage books to add height to the dessert table and an old suitcase to hold the plates and cutlery.

Instead of a DJ, Bryan and I created a Spotify playlist for dinner and dancing, borrowed a PA system, and asked a groomsman to be our MC and take care of the music for us. I was worried about this a little, but it ended up being amazing! The songs that were played were exactly the offbeat things that we both loved, there wasn't a stranger being really cheesy and asking us to do the YMCA, and it was awesome!

A lesson I've learned - DIY doesn't always mean cheaper. If you are going to spend 10 hours and $10 on supplies rather than $15 for something premade, that might not be worth it. Sometimes the handmade details are the most special, but there is only so much one bride can do. I tried very hard to pick my handmade details very carefully. I am sure that there were plenty of things on my Pintrest list that I thought I couldn't live without that just didn't happen and I didn't notice one bit. The handmade details that we did focus on were absolutely perfect and made our day more special. I will share a few of my favorites later this week.

Grand Total : >$5K

That's it!  Event planning has a lot of things that go into it and it can be overwhelming, but in the end, when we were really thoughtful about each and every piece of the puzzle and we had clear priorities, we had an amazing wedding for a fraction of what might be expected.  Again, I am not sharing this all to gloat or talk about money, but instead to just offer a little perspective and share what I've learned.

How I Had the Wedding of My Dreams for Less than $5,000 : Part 1

09 September 2013

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm really excited to share a bit about my wedding.  Even though it was a year ago, it was still a really amazing important memory that I'll always hold with me and I treasure every little detail about it.

I thought maybe I would just be really bold and start by talking about money & budget .  Money is a hard thing to talk about, it's something we kind of all try to keep to ourselves and I know that there is a lot of complications around the subject related to socioeconomic class structures and just even around individual morals.  I am not trying to minimize those things, but a good budget is just a key to any event.  And really I think it's something most brides struggle with.  I genuinely believe you don't need a lot of money to have an amazing wedding...or an amazing life for that matter.

Budget Wedding Tips!
The average wedding in the US costs over $25,000. That just was not a reality that I could afford nor feel that I wanted.  I'm frugal and I have a lot of other priorities to consider.  Instead, after a lot of hard work, I was able to have the wedding of my dreams, give my guests an awesome time, AND spend only a fraction of that. Sure, we probably could have spent more or we could have spent a lot less, but that budget is what worked for us.

The most wonderful thing that I learned in our budget wedding planning process was how important clearly defining our goals and priorities for our wedding was. There are so many sources of inspiration, so many things to buy, so much pushing you in many different directions when you are planning a wedding, but by having our priorities written out I was able to avoid those traps and keeping myself sane. It was sort of like writing a mission statement of the wedding. Whenever I felt overwhelmed, had trouble deciding on something, or just felt a little stuck - I referred back to our priorities and asked myself if my choices were aligning with them and if not, then I didn't need it.

I also learned that you should use what you have!  Let your amazing and talented friends and family do what they are good at!  Let go of the control and just realize how special it is to have their participation - in doing so, we got some amazing invitations, thoughtful handmade favors, beautiful decor, gorgeous hair and makeup, and an rad one of a kind manatee cake topper as a gift from my friends!

Here is the basic breakdown and where our costs were and how I saved money:

The venue is the biggest challenge, it will set the mood for the event and also set your budget in many ways.  We wanted to find a venue that was outdoors, had space for both ceremony & reception (to save $ and stress over having two spaces), had a flexible policy on food and didn't require certain caterers, and also didn't break the bank.  Not a very easy task, but this is the thing I probably put the most time into researching and it really paid off for us.

We found an amazing venue that was just a bit outside of the city, so it was much more affordable than most of the other venues we looked at & it also had a special amount of charm that I really wanted. I also loved that it was a B&B so our families and friends could spend the night and celebrate our first day as a married couple the next day.   As an added bonus, it came with all the tables and chairs we would need for the reception which probably saved me hundreds in rental costs.

As an added bonus: there were llamas.

My husband is an artist, so I asked him to design our save the dates.  He made these amazing little cards and I scored a groupon for vistaprint, so we decided to just turn them into magnets so our friends could just toss them on the fridge and really save the date.  With the groupon, we got 100 of these for $20.

Save the Date Magnets!

I learned a very important lesson - if you have a friend who is amazing at something, let them help!  For our invitations, I enlisted the help of one of my talented friends.  I told her that instead of a gift, all I wanted was for her awesome creativity to be part of our day.  She designed our invites and printed them onto simple and inexpensive cardstock and they were lovely.  We skipped the RSVP cards in favor of an RSVP on our wedding website which saved some postage and some sanity.

For the ceremony, we kept it really simple.  I lined the isles with cute little pinwheels to add color and a bit of playfulness.  At each seat, was a "goodie bag" - complete with a hand drawn comic/program, candy, bubbles, and a drink ticket.

Pinwheels for the isle

We aren't religious, so instead of paying a few hundred dollars to hire a stranger to be our officiant, we asked a friend to get ordained online and do it for free.  It was more special that way because I felt so surrounded with people I adored when I said "I do."

This is a huge part of any party budget and it was important to us.  We knew we didn't want to pay $30 per person for a boring plate of chicken and we wanted the food to be really special to us.
Wedding food truck!

We live in Portland, a city known for the food cart scene and that is something we both really love, so the answer was pretty obvious to us.  We choose one of my favorite food carts, Koi Fusion, to serve dinner.  It was a really fun treat for our guests to be able to customize and order whatever they wanted and it also took care of all the special food needs (vegan, gluten-free, my picky eater of sister, etc) & gave the guests an activity and allowed them to serve themselves.  The best part was that we got our costs down from the traditional catering cost of $30+ per person down to less than $7 per person while still having an amazing meal.
DIY cheese plate with cute little banners!

To keep the line in check, we had them make up a bunch of tacos & a bowl of kimchi, so that our guests could grab and eat right away (which ended up being inadvertently great for the budget because the tacos were so much cheaper than other menu items and many guests just got hooked on those). We also DIY-ed some appetizers and snacks. We got an amazing cheese selection from Trader Joes for less than $20. Also from Trader Joes, we got a few packages of broccoli slaw mix and just added their peanut sauce dressing and some raisins & peanuts to make a fresh side dish for $10. Chips & salsa are an easy super cheap addition.

Dessert buffet
For dessert, we didn't get a fancy $500 cake, instead we opted for cupcakes from my favorite cupcake shop because a) they are amazing and I'm really into cupcakes and b) they don't require any cake cutting service or extra plates.   We did have the cupcake shop make a small cake just so we could show off our cute manatee cake topper made for us by a talented friend and get the whole "cutting the cake experience".  I like dessert a lot, so in addition to the cupcakes, we added some variety to create more of a dessert buffet.  We ordered several dozen of Portland's famous Voodoo Doughnuts in all of their amazing & weird varieties.  They even let us special order a bride and groom and custom heart doughnut.  A little outside the box perhaps, but every one of our guests loved, it felt like us, it and it saved us a bunch over traditional wedding cake.

OMG! Manatee + Robomantee cake topper!

We struggled with the bar a little. I wanted our guests to feel treated and like they were able to party down, but I also wanted to stick the my budget. In the end, we decided to do drink tickets, but to make them really special and cute. We got tiny key charms and attached a note about it being the "key to your first drink on us" & then got a little nerdy by putting a T.A.R.D.I.S. on the bar for our guests to put their key into. We also went with beer & wine only because it was less expensive for set up.  I worried a lot about this, but in the end everyone had a good time and my friends ponied up a few bucks (or did some pre-gaming in the parking lot, who am I to judge?) to get drunk and understood that we had a budget and we all had a good time.

For non-booze, we had 3 kinds of beverages (cucumber water, lavender lemonade, and iced tea) in big self serve pitchers and had some metal ice buckets full of water and cute sodas to match our wedding colors.


I really thought this would not be an area I would splurge on.  I really like cute clothes, but I am really frugal - pretty much all of my clothes come from thrift stores and I generally hate to spend more than $20 on any one thing.  I looked and looked for used dress and I did not find the perfect one, so in the end I spent $500 + some altering on a new dress that I fell in love with that really fit my style and the feel of the wedding.  I know $500 is on the low end of the world of wedding dresses, but it seemed insane to me.  I am really glad I went a bit out of my comfort zone on this one though because as a plus sized woman with some body issues, it was really amazing to find the exact right thing that made me feel beautiful and I never once worried about the way I looked or posing for photos.  Money well spent.

We didn't pay for much of our wedding party attire, instead we kept an open mind and let go of the need to have the matchy matchy styles...or even the even wedding parties for that matter (I had 5, he had 3) and we were really supported with that choice. We asked his groomsmen to wear grey parts with a white button-down (figuring they all had at least one of both of those things anyway) and we bought matching ties and suspenders online for all of them.  I wanted my bridesmaids to feel comfortable and to be themselves, so I let them pick whatever they wanted to wear.  I told them to pick something teal and they all choose things that fit their style and their budget.

Along the same lines, I had two of my gorgeous friends take care of hair and makeup.  They both did amazing things with their own style, so I asked them if they might consider doing the same for my big day.  I had a pre-wedding wine and hang out session with each of them to test some things out so we were ready and then on my wedding day I felt so lucky to be so absolutely surrounded with people I loved and trusted so much.

...stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow! <3

One year

08 September 2013

This weekend, I celebrated my one year wedding anniversary!

It's been an incredibly hectic few weeks for both of us, so Bryan & I took a trip to the Puget Sound to explore some cute little towns and just get away.  It's been a really wonderful weekend and a nice reminder of how lucky I am to be married to my best friend.  We have been together a total of over 7 years and although marriage hasn't really changed us much, there is a nice comfort in it and a year is still a very special milestone for our relationship.

I have been meaning to post things about our wedding on the blog for a long time, but it just seemed like the longer I waited, the less relevant it would all be.  So maybe this is the perfect excuse and a perfect way to celebrate one year.  This week will be my wedding week on the blog, I am just going to share a few of my favorite lessons, DIY projects, and budget tips in the hope that it might inspire others in the same way that all of the amazing wedding bloggers inspired me!

Zucchini Recipe Round-up

04 September 2013

Seasonal Eating: 10 delicious ways to use zucchini

It's time for the last harvests of summer!  I'm finding myself knee deep in a few of my big producers - zucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers!  It's lovely.   I adore each of these amazing things and I'm passionate about eating in season, but what to do with all that zucchini?  How do I take it beyond the boring old zucchini bread route and really make use of this incredible vegetable?  Here is a round up of my favorite recipes from around the web!

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