Viet-Cajun Backyard Party

We threw our first house party for my 31st birthday and it was truly a dream come true with all of my favorite things in our backyard.  Catching up with friends and family, sipping on bubbly, and crushing some delicious crawfish.  

The theme was inspired from the shrimp and crawfish episode from Ugly Delicious where they went into the history of how Viet-Cajun started in Houston.  After watching this show, I had so many questions for my mom about her recipe so I took her to my favorite local crawfish restaurant to taste their seasoning.  She highly approved!   

I grew up with my parents throwing backyard parties with their friends where my dad would come home with a truckload of live crawfish and my mom would whip up the boil infused with lemongrass.  We laid out newspaper on the table and poured out pounds of crawfish.  I must have been around 6 years old learning how to eat crawfish like a pro.    

Here's what I learned about her recipe: Louisiana cajun seasoning, fuji apples, lemongrass, etc...  My mom learned about the key ingredient from a friend who moved to California from Houston.  I had no idea so learning all of this gave me so much appreciation.  

So fast forward decades later, I was able to have my parents sit back, relax and enjoy crawfish and shrimp at my party instead of doing all the cooking. 

Here's some of my party planning details:

I sent out a Paperless envite to my 30 guests with instructions to place their order through Google Form.  I'm so glad I decided to rent enough chairs, it made it much easier than stressing about having enough seats.  Looking forward to renting glassware and plates next time.  

A mistake I made was combining our order by pound total, doh.  Next time, I'll place my order with the restaurant as is and ask them to bag it separately.  My amazing friends Linda and Judy spent over an hour splitting the 40 lbs using a kitchen scale and compost bags to keep them hot.  Everyone got their correct orders and we crushed them!  I forgot that this was some people's first time trying crawfish or Viet-cajun style so I gave them a demonstration on how to deconstruct a crawfish and they claimed it was life changing.  

Our menu list for 30 guests:

  • 50 BBQ'd oysters with spicy Laotian citrus sauce (2 people grilling)
  • 20 lbs crawfish from Rockin' Crawfish
  • 20 lbs shrimp from Rockin' Crawfish
  • 24 Louisiana style hot links
  • 12 ears of corn boiled and tossed into the cajun bags
  • 2 buckets of fried chicken from Popeyes
  • 1 large party tray of chow mein (or garlic noodles)
  • Corona beers with lime (2-3 bottles per guest)
  • Laotion/hmong style papaya salad
  • Giant donut from Bob's Donut 
  • Guests byob for variety

It was actually a really hard week leading up to the party.  With the news of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I was just super sad and really in my feelings.  But my husband reminded me that it's probably the best medicine, to be surrounded by loved ones during this time.  In the end, I think it was best tribute celebrating another year with my friends and family over drinks and great food.  


Thoey Bou    






Paint night with bob ross (the real Og)

bob ross paint night.jpg

Who doesn't love watching Bob Ross how-to's painting tutorials?  How he makes it look so easy with his fan blender brush and soothing voice.  Paint night has gotten so popular lately, and for good reason because it's always a good idea to stay in, bust out the paint and sip on some wine.  So I've had this idea for a while, to pay homage to the original painting instructor.  I finally got the chance but the challenge was that I had a time limit on our workshop, to get it all done in one hour.  That's why I decided to go with mini canvases to cut down on time.  I'm so glad I did, because look how adorable they turned out.  It was also less intimidating as well, so although the canvases were way tinier than I originally intended, it was an accident meant to be.

Kate Spade inspired baby shower

My amazing sister-in-law and her friends threw the cutest Kate Spade inspired baby shower theme!  I got to enjoy myself as a guest for once.  Even as a vegetarian, I really enjoyed this brunch at a Brazilian Steakhouse with their endless salad bar options and especially their grilled pineapple with cinnamon and sugar.  I wasn't preggo but I sure did leave with a food baby.    


DIY Mimosa Bar

Venue: Brazilian Steakhouse Brunch (better than dinner option for a large group)

Activity: Create a scrapbook page for baby's first moments

Party favors: succulents in tin cups and polaroid photos

Young kids birthday party

FAQ: IS my kid old enough for AN Ecomonster workshop?

Specifically for my younger age group of kids ranging from 4-6 years old, we work with flat mason jars for our plant arranging instead of rolling glass globes.  For guests under six years old, I encourage the parents to join their kids to work on the terrarium together.  This becomes a fun bonding activity for the kids with their mom or dad.  I've found that parents find it as a nice surprise or even relief since you know, kids parties can be so much about the kids that you forget about the adults.  My guess is because with this age group, you simply can't just drop them off and pick up after a couple of hours.  But, I need a real parent to confirm my theory here.    

Birthday Party deets:

Celebration: 6th Birthday with twenty-six friends

Venue: indoors in family's home garage in Alamo, CA on a rainy day

Activity and party favor: wide mason jar succulent terrarium and polaroid photos

Birthday boy chose animals for his party theme

Family Backyard Birthday Party

What stood out for me about this backyard birthday party was that the adults were having just as much fun as the kids were.  It reminded me so much of my own big family where kids birthdays and baby showers meant an opportunity for the adults to get together and catch up, especially with our busy lives.  I felt truly lucky to be part of this celebration and was very tempted to join the bubbly party after my workshop was over ;P 

Not just great party favors for kids

A parent came up to me and thanked me for sending her kid home with a beautiful terrarium for her to keep instead of kids art that she'd have to put on the fridge.  This made me laugh so hard.  So not only are the succulent terrariums great party favors for kids, but also for all parents involved.  

Birthday party details

Celebration: 7th birthday party with sixteen friends and family

Venue: Home backyard in East bay Pinole, CA 

Before starting the workshop, the kids had a grand time on the good ole trampoline.  We then rolled into the succulent terrarium globe workshop and then took lots of great polaroid photos.  



Glitter snow globes birthday party

I felt so honored when Abby requested EcoMonster for another birthday celebration.  It's so special when I get to be part of more than one celebration.  I'm constantly trying to improve, but being able to come back means I'm doing something right!  

This birthday gal is super crafty and wanted not one, but two craft activities so that became the birthday theme for this year.  

Celebration: 12th Birthday with nine friends

Venue: at home in Sunnyvale, CA

Activities and party favors:  

1. Glitter snow globes workshop (for all seasons, not just winter :)

2. DIY floral crowns   

Office Succulent Terrarium Party

Event: Wellness week in the office; Green workshop 

Venue: Conference room in Uptown Oakland, CA

Dessert and drinks: Bacon s'mores, crackers, cheese, and wine

Activity: wind down afterwork with a therapeutic succulent terrarium arranging workshop



Succulent and Froyo birthday party at the park

Celebration: 9th birthday party with twenty-one friends

Venue: De Anza Park in Sunnyvale, CA (building rental here)

Lunch: Always a crowd favorite, pizza 

Activity & party favor: succulent terrarium globes and polaroid photos

Birthday dessert: Frozen Yogurt from Pinkberry dessert instead of cake

I thought this busy mom who threw Jade's birthday party at a park found a secret gem!  It was super spacious to be able to throw a big party with 21 guests and the great outdoors always makes a great backdrop.  I loved that birthday girl requested for plants and frozen yogurt as her theme.  




Backyard Camping ThemeD Birthday Party

I always ask my clients, why they chose my succulent workshop for their celebration.  This mom shared with me that her twin boys who were turning 10 years old, were currently studying geology in school.  They requested for plants and were excited for a succulent workshop.  Isn't that so cute?!  I made sure to cover succulent propagation in more detail with this group.   

Their birthday theme actually included all of my own personal favorites: plants, camping, and Harry Potter all in one.  The s'mores station was a hit because who doesn't love gooey marshmallows right in your backyard?  Guests loved dropping off gifts in the tent.  I think these twin boys nailed all the successful components of a party! 

Celebration: Twin boys' 10th Birthday with twelve friends

Venue: backyard slumber party in a tent in Sunnyvale, CA

Activity and party favors: succulent terrarium globes and Polaroid photos

Dessert: Campfire s'mores kits and cupcakes (homemade by older siblings)

Theme: Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4 tent site sign (nice touch) + outdoor (backyard) camping + geology inspired workshop

I'm not kidding that these are all my favorite things so, a couple of months later, I did end up going on camping trip for my 30th birthday celebration :)





From across the world, this mom made me cry...

After the holidays died down, I received a review from across the world that made me cry. She put into words the core and heart of EcoMonster.  It was emotional because when you publish your passion for the world to see, you don't always know if you're doing it right or if anyone is listening to you.  You start to feel crazy and you kind of doubt yourself...  So for me, this email yelled at me that I was doing something right.  Thanks, Mascha <3

My review

I'm not into buying loads of or expensive presents for Christmas as to me that doesn't represent Christmas. Besides that I didn't want a real tree either, but was thinking about making one on the wall with masking tape. I searched the internet for ideas and stumbled upon several interesting sites, one which directed me to Ecomonster's Fun Packed Advent Calendar.

I was immediately attracted by the fact that it was 'recycled', didn't contain any sugary sweets, no brands/merchandise and the children got to do stuff! What better season than to spend quality time together and learn the children about recycling and making stuff and counting in the way than Christmas?

My only concern was that I was a bit late and the order had to come from the US (we live in Singapore), but I took the risk thinking if it was late I would use the envelopes after Christmas or open two on the same day. The package arrived on Friday December 6th, just when the boys were at preschool. I unpacked and hung them (one for each boy) on our windows with washi tape and string – looking like Christmas trees. It looked festive immediately!

Of course they saw them when they got home. I explained what it was and they were excited to open the first envelope. It held pipe cleaners and I helped them make the shapes they wanted – a spider and a star. By the end of the day they had been shaped in more than 10 different shapes and they ended up on the tree as decorations. So much fun with such a small thing!
From that day one the first thing in the morning they would ask was: 'What day is it today? Can we open our envelope?' That's why in all the pictures they are still wearing their pajamas ;)

Some things were very straight forward and they got on with it right away, some needed a bit more explanation and a couple of things didn't quite end up 'as meant' but we had fun! Try to let your child make whatever he/she thinks is possible with the stuff that's in the envelopes - they come up with the most extraordinary ideas!!

My boys are 4 and almost 3 years old and loved it. They go to a Reggio Emilia inspired preschool, so they are used to working with recycling materials and creating 'from scratch'.

I would definitely recommend this calendar to any parent who wants some original, sustainable and creative fun with their child while counting down to Christmas.

-Mascha from Singpore

Thanks to these boys across the globe for pushing me to ask myself, how do I make these calendars even better for the kiddos this year?  So, I'm excited to announce my: 

- 2 0 1 5 Crafty Advent Calendar for Kids -

RELEASE date for new version is November 12th, 2015

AVAILABLE only until November 20th, 2015 for purchase (full set for 24 day countdown) 

NEW - This edition includes a mix of shapes, sizes, and patterns.  This means I'm no longer limited to filling these advent calendars with diy's that can only fit into a flat 2x2 envelope.  Very exciting because I'm able to include so many more fun craft activities that did not fit before.  Up until my release date, I'll share sneak peeks and reveal what's actually inside some of these envelopes over on my Instagram @ecomonster.   

TIP: Join my Mailing Party (here) for giveaway deets & exclusive special codes only shared with my party goers ;)

Preorder Here -

My faux-elopement

Because our wedding reception held in our hometown was so out of our control (470 people), we decided to faux-elope and kept our wedding ceremony at the local City Hall very private and intimate.  We didn't want our families to have to travel during the middle of the week so we only invited last minute local friends who happened to be in the neighborhood for a picnic lunch.  

We woke up and decided to have Bun Rieu for breakfast because it just seemed right to smell like shrimp paste before exchanging lifetime vows...  The restaurant was so excited, our noodle bowls were on the house!  My awesome work place surprised me with my succulent wedding bouquet from the dreamiest SF garage turned flower shop.    

We exchanged our vows at city hall and had a grand picnic with our local, sweet friends right in front of city hall.  We were so lucky, even San Francisco decided to show off its best weather that day.   

Thanks to all my loving friends, family, and new hubby for making our wedding day such a dream come true!  Seriously, it was truly magical.  All those years of Pinterest wedding trolling finally paid off... 

Now we just need to pick a destination for our honeymoon!  Ready to pin our first travel as Mr. & Mrs. Bou.

Dress | Lulus
Birdcage Veil | Tessa Kim
Floral | Ampersand
Eco Ring | PointNoPointStudio
Moments captured by LoveInPhotographs

You know you're a wanderluster when:

You know you’re a wanderluster when:
You plan your trips months in advance
You value experiences not things
You know currency conversion without googling it
You can say hello and thank you in multiple languages
You often start off your stories with "When I was in..."

You'll find yourself scanning this vintage world map, reminiscing about all the pinned places you've visited around the globe. Hang it above your desk area to lust, plan, and motivate you for your next destination.

Purchase my Travel Map Hanging Kit here

Tell me where you plan to go next by commenting below and I'll message you a coupon code.



DIY Egg Shell Candles by EcoMonster

Here's how to make egg candles with recycled wax and wick options.


Materials you will need to collect:
a. candle thermometer
b. clean empty egg shells
c. old pot for boiling water
d. wick (or old birthday cake candles)
e. used candles (once melted, you can also reuse the wicks)
f. melting pour pot
You can purchase a., d., and f. at your local craft store.

WARNING: Candle wax is flammable so DO NOT use direct heat to melt it.  Keep flammable items away from the stove and never leave melting wax unattended. If the wax catches fire, do NOT douse it with water—use a fire extinguisher or baking soda.

candle wick options

You have three different wick options.  Brand new wire wick can be purchased from your local store however, I recommend recycling old birthday candles or wick from used candles.  You can salvage wick when melting down old candles.  Once everything is melted, you can extract the wick from the melting pot using a skewer or such.

egg shell candle prep
egg shell prepping

Egg shell preparation:
Crack the top of eggs with a spoon.  Break away carefully until the hole is large enough to poor content out.  Rinse your eggshells using hot water and run your finger around the inside of the egg.  Let dry.

WARNING: Candle wax is flammable so DO NOT use direct heat to melt it.  Keep flammable items away from the stove and never leave melting wax unattended. If the wax catches fire, do NOT douse it with water—use a fire extinguisher or baking soda. (Ed: It deserves to be said twice, friends! Be careful!)

Cover your workplace with newspaper for easy clean up since wax is not fun to clean off counters.  Boil water in a pot and then place your melting pot in.
Melt wax:
Place old, used candles into a double boiler setup and heat to between 125 and 150 degrees. Check the temperature frequently with thermometer and never leave wax unattended. Don’t let it exceed 250 degrees or the vapors could become flammable.

First pour:
Pour melted wax into eggshells three fourths of the way.

Let cool for approximately 10 minutes.  By now, the wax has slightly hardened so now is a good time to put the wicks in.

The wax at this point should be soft yet thick enough to hold your wick up by itself.

Second pour:
Now top off with more melted wax enough to create a smooth surface.  The first pour will create a concave around the wick so a second pouring will fix this.

Float them in a bowl of water!

Let us know in the comments if you try this and if you have any egg dishes to share!

    12 Days of Christmas For Your Guy

    Last year I decided to do 12 days of Christmas for Sutty.  Knowing him, I numbered the gifts clearly so that he would open them correctly and what does he do?  Opens two gifts on the first day!  He would go to the tree first thing in the morning to find his next gift, it's not just kids who get excited about these things.  I really enjoyed putting this together because it wasn’t all just for him… The gifts were a mixture of dates for us to do and only a few actual material items.  I emphasize on spending quality time with each other instead of getting engulfed with material things during the holidays.  My goal was to only give 1-2 item gifts and the rest were dates outings.


    Below is a description of each gift I gave which will hopefully give you some ideas.

    Day 1: “Thanks for being a sweetheart.”  Wrapped up some candies.  I don’t encourage his sweet tooth so I would only give him a few and shared the rest with my coworkers, hehe.

    Day 2: “Movie date night :)”  You can either do this at home, go out to a theater, or even drive-thru if you have one in town.  Gift wrap a popcorn packets and movie candies.  

    Day 3: “We’re going on an ice skating date Friday night, dress warm!”  I got discounted tickets to a local ice skating rink.  I use Groupon, LivingSocial, and Goldstar but there are so many more out there!  This date was more for myself.

    Day 4: Favorite candies

    Day 5: Banana Republic Men’s Gloves – I wrote a note that said “These should come in handy for tonight’s date.”  This was our ice skating date night.

    Day 6: honestly can’t remember what I did here… but I’ll keep thinking about it.

    Day 7: A box of cookies.

    Day 8:  “Put this address in for tonight’s date.” I got discounted tickets to a local Christmas lights wonderland.  I thought it was going to be cheesy but it was surprisingly really fun. Again, I use Groupon, LivingSocial, and Goldstar but there are so many more out there!

    Day 9:  A candy cane.  I was getting lazy and brought candy canes in for work so left one at home for this guy.

    Day 10:  “Pack warm for a weekend in the city!”  We live an hour away from the San Francisco so simply taking a weekend trip up there during the holidays was magical. Plus, Sutty loves to shop so it made it easy for me–Union Square.  I planned ahead and told our friends we’d be coming up.  We enjoyed dinner, went shopping, and then our friends showed up as a surprise to join us for the cable car ride.  It was beautiful at night time with all the city lights.  The cable car drops you off right next to Ghirardelli so we had a delightful late night dessert.

    Day 11:  “You always make me melt.”  Box of chocolates.

    Day 12:  I made cuff links from rare Cambodian coins.  They’re subtle and classy.  These cost me around $7.

    Here’s another version of date ideas I saw on Pinterest you should check out, here.

    Please comment below if you have additional ideas!  I need to mix a few new ideas this year.