Maple sweet potato soup

Soups are easily my favourite thing to make. They don't require a lot of effort, are easy on the grocery bill, and pack a nutritional punch. I am always on the lookout for a good soup recipe. I saw this maple sweet potato soup over at Vegetarian Ventures and decided to try it out. It was delicious, nutritious (sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamins A and C) and has found a permanent home in my soup repertoire.

Maple sweet potato soup

adapted from Vegetarian Ventures

  • 3 sweet potatoes, washed and cubed
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup*
  • 3 cups vegetable broth**
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the sweet potato and maple syrup. Let everything cook for 15 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the sweet potato is soft.

Remove from heat and, using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.

* I found the original recipe quite sweet, so I cut down on the maple syrup. VV offers some yummy serving suggestions to complement the sweetness of the soup, you should check them out. 
** I like thick soups, so I cut down on the broth.

five sense friday no.15

This week was a bit of a blur. One of those weeks where every day you think 'thank gosh it's finally Friday,' but it's actually only Tuesday. Well, it is finally Friday (I had to double check).

School has begun and I am trying to get into a routine. All of my classes are online. They are much more time consuming than physical class, so I have to be disciplined and manage my time carefully. I still find myself drifting off into the black hole that is the Internet every now and then, but I am trying to cut back. 

a stack of fresh notepads
An annoying pulse in my eye. Does this ever happen to anyone else? It's like a twitch in the eyeball. It comes and goes. Terribly annoying.
Mulled apple cider, yum.

Rain on the skylight, second only to rain on a tin roof.

Whittaker's Peanut Slab. Sadly, I ate my last slab today and you can't get them in Canada. 

Connect. My classes started in full force this week, which means hours and hours in front of the computer.

happy new year, indeed!

Sunrise on October 13, 2012 at Fergusons Cove, NS
I feel like I just said hello to 2012 and now I've said goodbye. It has been a tough year. Adjusting to life on the West Coast was a lot harder than I ever anticipated. Vancouver never quite felt like home. There were a lot of dark days, but I'm still glad we gave it a shot. We made some excellent, life-long friends and we realized that our hearts belong on the East Coast.

2012 is a tough one. It is a year that I want to love—and I do—, but it is also a year I want to put so far behind me. In September, my Mum was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Less than a month later, Matthew and I tied the knot in Halifax, NS in front of our beloved friends and family, Mum included.

The wedding week was magical. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if I could get stuck in a time loop, it would be that one week in October. We have such amazing friends and family who came from far and wide to bear witness. We also felt the tremendous love and support that poured in from those who could not be there in person: we had a live stream of photos from a delicious champagne breakfast in New Zealand; love notes from Australia; and text messages from the UK. The day was so much more than I imagined. The quiet moments, those too, I would relive those.

How do you reconcile the two memories? The absolute heartache of the cancer with the joy of the wedding. There is no doubt that I will always remember the two simultaneously—they are inextricably linked. In a way this makes it easier. It softens the blow. During this incredibly dark time there was such light. We were together as a family. We were celebrating, laughing, and loving. We gathered our strength.

We all returned to our far corners of the continent. Things seemed to be going just fine until they weren't. Mum was admitted to the ICU. Caitlin and I came to Toronto right away. There were long days and nights in the hospital—December was a blur. A few days before Christmas, Mum was released. It was a miracle. The doctors were amazed by her response to the chemo (despite the massive pulmonary embolism it caused). We can now move forward on a different path.

So, 2013, we are ready. I'm filing my taxes as a married woman and I have an amazing family.

five senses friday no. 14

We didn't have a white Christmas, but it was still magical (and the snow came eventually). Mum was home. This was all we really wanted for Christmas. Everything else was gravy. We spent lots of time hanging out, watching cheesy holiday movies, playing Catan and, of course, ate way too much food. 

Matthew and I spent Boxing Day at the Royal Ontario Museum with friends from Vancouver. It was amazing. When we arrived early in the day, the Museum was quite empty. I suspect everyone else in Toronto was out battling each other trying to get a cashmere sweater at 85% off. After spending a few hours checking out the Dinosaurs, we headed home to start our Lord of the Rings marathon with the family.

post-Christmas snowstorm

The soft and cozy flannel of my new Christmas pyjamas.

Crabtree & Evelyn Noël home fragrance. This has been the smell of Christmas for as long as I can remember.

Non-stop Christmas music. And I am totally fine with this.

A Christmas feast! I tried Christmas pudding for the first time—I also made it for the first time.

Smiling faces of my family. Mum sitting in her usual spots at home. Our own Christmas miracle.

For anyone who has stumbled across my blog for the first time, this is a weekly post inspired by Abby from abby try again. She invites everyone to play along with five senses friday. It's a lovely way to look back on your week.

evolution of the invites

Right from the beginning I knew I wanted to make our invitations. Once I had picked out the fonts I wanted to use and gathered some more inspiration I set to work. I wanted to tie in (pun intended) our "Matthew and Alyssa are tying the knot" save the date video.

This is the very first version I created. I used two of my favourite fonts: Strangelove and Bookeyed Suzanne. Not too bad for a first attempt. I did have a couple of issues with this draft. The first being Strangelove is sadly too hard to read. I printed out a test run and it was too fine a print. I would have to let go of this font. My other issue was that the rope borders looked to much like an indication of a rodeo  themed wedding. So what did I do?

first draft
Added more rope...? Alright, that seems like a good idea. I also swapped out the illegible Strangelove font for all-caps Baskerville. It was a little too blah of a combination. And that rope...

second draft
Still not happy with what was happening, I decided to give landscape orientation a try. As well as, you know, increase the size and amount of rodeo rope. I also tried carrying Bookeyed Suzanne through the entire invite, but I found it quite hard on the eyes—there were just too many swashes. I think this version was a low point in the design process. So it was time for more drastic changes.

third draft (& total fail)
The fourth draft is where magic started happening. I swapped out the rodeo rope for fine, string-like drawings created in Illustrator. They had the right amount of whimsy and the right amount of "tying the knot." I also I loved the look of our silhouettes against the white on kraft paper, but that was going to be far to complicated to achieve. At this point, I decided to abandon kraft paper for the invites. 

fourth draft (now we are getting somewhere)
It was at about this point that I actually ordered the paper. This could have been an incredibly brilliant or incredibly stupid move. In my case, it was a brilliant move. I was now limited to "superfine soft white" A6 note cards for the main invites and two "superfine soft white" A2 note cards for supplemental information and the response card. With this in mind, I set to work. I also stopped using InDesign and switched to Illustrator.

The header of the fifth draft was heavily inspired by a set of invites I had found earlier in the inspiration process. I carried over the string frame from the fourth draft, and introduced Bodoni at Home. It was my answer to the all-caps problem. Every other font I tried was too stuffy compared to the playful nature of Bookeyed Suzanne—the contrast to stark. Bodoni at Home is a handwritten type. It was perfect. However, this version was note quite perfect. It was actually kind of boring. 

fifth draft
Last Christmas, Matthew gave me a Wacom Tablet. This was the perfect opportunity to put it to good use. I decided to replace Bookeyed Suzanne with my own handwriting. Done. I showed this version to Matthew and he was sold.

sixth draft (not quite the final, but close)
So that is the very long, very detailed design journey of our invitations. It was a couple of months from start to finish. The actual making of the invites was an even longer more complicated process, which I will save for another time.