My Christmas Wrapping Theme for 2016

My Christmas Wrapping Theme | Gift wrapping ideas, Christmas decor ideas and more from @cydconverse

I have a bit of reputation among family and friends as being the gift wrapper. You know, that person who gets a little crazy about making sure every package is perfectly, neatly wrapped and topped with just the right festooning of ribbons or twine. I completely understand why some people find wrapping gifts to be a hassle so good enough is good enough, but for me I feel like that extra bit of care and those special little details really make the gift recipients feel extra loved. Each year I pull together a Christmas wrapping theme that I use for every gift I wrap. It’s a signature look that I carry through the whole season with a pretty serious commitment. At family Christmas celebrations you can always tell which stack of packages originated in our house, and I love seeing people get excited about what’s inside. Under our tree on Christmas morning, all the packages coordinate and stick to the theme of the year, whatever it might be. This year, it’s all about white, blue, gold and kraft paper. Actually, most year years I include kraft paper, because it’s an inexpensive way to supplement your wrapping paper supply without spending hundreds of dollars on wrapping paper, even though that’s always pretty tempting.

My Christmas Wrapping Theme | Gift wrapping ideas, Christmas decor ideas and more from @cydconverse

My Christmas Wrapping Theme | Gift wrapping ideas, Christmas decor ideas and more from @cydconverse

My Christmas Wrapping Theme | Gift wrapping ideas, Christmas decor ideas and more from @cydconverse

To pull together my slightly obsessive wrapping scheme each year, I start by finding one paper I absolutely love and let it set the tone. In this case it was this beautiful white and blue plaid, which was practically begging to be paired with gold. Add in some gold and white stripes, the gold foil stamped kraft pattern and the basic kraft paper and you’ve got something pretty stunning, even if I do say so myself. I personally love twine for decking out gifts, but always make sure to add in a bit of ribbon, too. This textured gold ribbon, the metallic baker’s twine and the big yarn pom poms with the gold foil tags make for the perfect finishing touches.

My Christmas Wrapping Theme | Gift wrapping ideas, Christmas decor ideas and more from @cydconverse

My Christmas Wrapping Theme | Gift wrapping ideas, Christmas decor ideas and more from @cydconverse

My Christmas Wrapping Theme | Gift wrapping ideas, Christmas decor ideas and more from @cydconverse

My Christmas Wrapping Theme | Gift wrapping ideas, Christmas decor ideas and more from @cydconverse

My Christmas Wrapping Theme | Gift wrapping ideas, Christmas decor ideas and more from @cydconverse

This year most of my packaging accoutrements came from Target, which to be honest is my usual go-to destination for gift wrapping supplies. They have the best collection of patterns, colors and gift topping accessories and it’s just so easy to pull together all the pieces to create really beautiful packages. For more speciality papers to add into the mix, Paper Source always has a great selection and if you have a great local stationery store be sure to check out what they might carry from independent boutique lines. Oh, and because I’m nosy, I’d love for you to show me how you’re wrapping your gifts this year on Instagram using #thesweetestholidays!

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[Art direction + styling by Cyd Converse | Photos by Alice G. Patterson for The Sweetest Occasion.]

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The Sweetest Christmas Playlist

The Sweetest Christmas Playlist | Best Christmas playlist, Christmas decorations, recipes, craft ideas and more from @cydconverse

I know a lot of people love Christmas music, but today I’m going to make a really big claim. I am going to come right out and tell you. I love Christmas music more than most people who love Christmas music. As a kid we would go caroling at local nursing homes with my aunts and cousins, wearing Santa hats and singing in four part harmony. In high school I was in a show choir where we’d start practicing our Christmas medleys and choreography (complete with an obscene number of outfit changes and loads of sequins) in September. We’d then perform dozens of times throughout the holiday season throughout the local area and at community events. To this day, I am not even the teeniest bit ashamed to sing and dance in public if one of my favorite Christmas jams comes on while I’m out shopping or running errands. Luckily for her, I’m already hard at work passing this love down to little Baby E. She starts dancing and singing along in her baby way and she hasn’t complained a bit that we’ve been in full-on Christmas music mode around here since October. All of this rambling said, today I’m sharing with you The Sweetest Christmas playlist! 26 of my favorite songs, although it’s in no way inclusive or exhaustive. Consider this a really solid go-to list, a mix of classics alongside modern selections, too. The essentials that will suit just about every crowd and a few fun things in the mix. The playlist you’re going to be playing heavily for the next few weeks. Hit the link below to listen along and pipe up in the comments and share your favorite Christmas songs with me!

Click here to listen to The Sweetest Christmas Playlist!

  1. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree | Brenda Lee
  2. Little Saint Nick | The Beach Boys
  3. All I Want for Christmas Is You | Mariah Carey
  4. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas | Kacey Musgraves
  5. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas | Michael Bublé
  6. Feliz Navidad | José Feliciano
  7. Baby, It’s Cold Outside | Brett Eldredge + Meghan Trainor
  8. River | Sam Palladio
  9. Holly Jolly Christmas | Lady Antebellum
  10. Christmas All Over Again | Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  11. Christmas Time is Here | Vince Guaraldi Trio
  12. Blue Christmas | Elvis Presley
  13. What Christmas Means to Me | Stevie Wonder
  14. Underneath the Tree | Kelly Clarkson
  15. Santa Baby | Eartha Kitt
  16. Jingle Bell Rock | Bobby Helms
  17. My Only Wish | Britney Spears
  18. Mele Kalikimaka | Kacey Musgraves
  19. This Christmas | Donny Hathaway
  20. White Christmas | Irving Berlin
  21. Step Into Christmas | Elton John
  22. A Marshmallow World | Darlene Love
  23. Carol of the Bells | Peter Wilhousky + John Williams
  24. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve | Kacey Musgraves
  25. Happy Xmas (War is Over) | John Lennon
  26. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town | Bruce Springsteen

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DIY Terrarium Winter Scene

DIY Terrarium Winter Scene | Christmas DIY ideas, homemade Christmas decorations and more from @cydconverse

Christmas is easily and undoubtedly my favorite excuse to craft. Hands down, no contest. Every year as we pull our boxes and bins of Christmas decorations down from the attic and set to decking the halls, I feel the same joy that I felt as a kid as my parents started unraveling long strands of lights. My mom isn’t exactly the craftiest lady, but most years she had some kind of crafty pursuit for us, whether it be ornaments for the tree or cute gift boxes loaded with cookies and good cheese for our bus driver and teachers. This little Christmas craft is the easiest thing you’ll ever make. In fact, it’s so easy it’s almost belittling to call this a tutorial. That said, I always try to throw out a few ideas that everyone of all crafting levels can make and this year, this one is it! We’re talking DIY terrarium winter scenes with the cutest little bottle brushes and a big handful of snow. You know, the fake kind. Naturally.

DIY Terrarium Winter Scene | Christmas DIY ideas, homemade Christmas decorations and more from @cydconverse

DIY Terrarium Winter Scene | Christmas DIY ideas, homemade Christmas decorations and more from @cydconverse

DIY Terrarium Winter Scene | Christmas DIY ideas, homemade Christmas decorations and more from @cydconverse

Supplies

  • Glass cylinder vases or similar
  • Fake snow (I used two varieties)
  • Bottle brush trees
  • Florist moss

DIY Terrarium Winter Scene | Christmas DIY ideas, homemade Christmas decorations and more from @cydconverse

DIY Terrarium Winter Scene | Christmas DIY ideas, homemade Christmas decorations and more from @cydconverse

I found all of these materials at Michaels and each terrarium took just about five minutes to make. (And that might even be a stretch, honestly.) I kept mine simple with just moss, snow and trees, but you could deck out your vignette with more detail if you’d like. A little house, perhaps, or even a tiny light pole or two. All of these things are readily available at craft stores this time of year. I began with simple, modern wide-mouthed cylinder vases and added a bit of green florist moss to the bottom to provide a base.

DIY Terrarium Winter Scene | Christmas DIY ideas, homemade Christmas decorations and more from @cydconverse

DIY Terrarium Winter Scene | Christmas DIY ideas, homemade Christmas decorations and more from @cydconverse

DIY Terrarium Winter Scene | Christmas DIY ideas, homemade Christmas decorations and more from @cydconverse

DIY Terrarium Winter Scene | Christmas DIY ideas, homemade Christmas decorations and more from @cydconverse

Next up, it’s all about those trees! I loved how cute my terrariums looked with just trees and I used a couple of different sizes to keep it looking somewhat natural. Then I sprinkled a whole bunch of snow all over everything! I used a combination of the plain white fluffy snow (which you’ll also find in the Christmas village type section in craft stores) and topped everything off with a dose of the sparkling snow. The combination of the two makes things look pretty and festive without being too fake or glittery looking. (Because clearly we’re going for realism here.) It’s as simple as that, friends! Both of mine have had a prime spot in our dining room since I made them and they’ve gotten a lot of compliments already. For being so easy to make, they sure are cute! Remember, if you give this or any of my other Christmas DIY ideas or recipes a try, share with me on Instagram using #thesweetestholidays!

DIY Terrarium Winter Scene | Christmas DIY ideas, homemade Christmas decorations and more from @cydconverse

DIY Terrarium Winter Scene | Christmas DIY ideas, homemade Christmas decorations and more from @cydconverse

DIY Terrarium Winter Scene | Christmas DIY ideas, homemade Christmas decorations and more from @cydconverse

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[Art direction + styling by Cyd Converse | Photos by Alice G. Patterson for The Sweetest Occasion.]

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Christmas Chocolate Bark Six Ways

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

This fall I was reminded how easy it is to make chocolate bark when I made a bunch of Halloween candy bark, which inspired me to create a whole bunch of Christmas chocolate bark recipes for you! Our kids are crazy for chocolate bark and, since I’ve been keeping them in ample supply, so are all of our neighbors. It’s fun because it’s really easy to make, especially with kids, and you can mix and match the flavors in an infinite number of ways. I am showing you six ways to make bark here to help inspire you to dream up the flavor combinations you’ll love best. Chocolate bark makes a really sweet homemade gift, especially when it’s packaged in a cute little box with tissue paper, tied up with a bit of baker’s twine. Take your cookie plates to the next level, friends! Honestly, as much as I love them, frosted cut-out sugar cookies basically have nothing on this stuff!

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

Basic Chocolate Bark Recipe

  • 20 oz (or roughly 4 cups) of chocolate morsels or chopped chocolate
  • 2 cups (approximate) various toppings (nuts, candy, dried fruit, marshmallows, etc.)

Begin by lining a baking sheet with parchment paper. Then, carefully melt chocolate over a double boiler, mixing often with a rubber spatula until fully melted and smooth. Alternately, you can microwave in a heat seat bowl, microwaving in 15 – 20 second intervals and stirring in between to ensure even heating. Once fully melted, carefully pour melted chocolate onto the center of your baking sheet, then use a rubber spatula to gently smooth out until approximately 1/4” thick. Recruit the kids to help you sprinkle your toppings such as nuts or pretzels across the surface of the melted chocolate. Transfer the baking sheet to the fridge and chill for at least one hour or, ideally, overnight. Remove from the fridge and use the back of a spoon or similar to smash the bark into pieces. Alternately you could use a knife to cut into rectangles.

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

S’mores Chocolate Bark

  • 20 oz (or roughly 4 cups) milk chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup graham crackers, broken into small pieces

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark

  • 20 oz (or roughly 4 cups) dark chocolate morsels
  • 2 cups crushed/broken candy canes or peppermint candies

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

Fruitcake Chocolate Bark

  • 20 oz (or roughly 4 cups) milk chocolate morsels
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup dried cherries
  • ½ cup golden raisins

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

Almond Coconut Chocolate Bark

  • 20 oz (or roughly 4 cups) milk chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

Pistachio Cranberry Bark

  • 20 oz (or roughly 4 cups) dark chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup halved pistachios
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

Peanut Butterscotch Bark

  • 20 oz (or roughly 4 cups) milk chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup lightly salted peanuts
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

To package up my chocolate bark to give as gifts, I used super cute bakery boxes from Shop Sweet Lulu and some pretty tissue paper I had on hand. The tags are part of the printable gift tag bundle that Erika Firm designed exclusively for The Sweetest Occasion readers, which you can download here! Then just add a bit of baker’s twine and you have a really thoughtful gift that your friends and family will love!

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

6 Christmas Chocolate Bark Recipes | Homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

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[Art direction by Cyd Converse | Printables by Erika Firm | Photos by Alice G. Patterson for The Sweetest Occasion.]

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The Gift Guide: Edible Gifts for Foodies Under $30

The Gift Guide: Edible Gifts for Foodies Under $30 | Gift ideas, homemade Christmas gifts and more from @cydconverse

I missed doing gift guides last year after doing them for years dating back to 2011 or maybe even 2010. With a tiny little newborn, finding hours to comb the internet for the coolest gifts and compile them into the perfect lists was just too much. Honestly, it’s trickier and far more time consuming than you’d think! This year I’m bringing them back though and kicking off the season with fun edible gifts for foodies! All of these gifts ring in at under $30 so they make great hostess gifts, gifts for coworkers or thoughtful gestures for a teacher or maybe your mail carrier. Stay tuned for dozens and dozens of additional gift ideas over the next couple of weeks and happy shopping!

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Pipcorn Truffle Popcorn ($25) | Noble Tonic 01: Bourbon Barrel Maple Syrup ($28.95) | French Deluxe Vanilla Powder ($12.99) | DIY Goat Cheese Kit ($27.95) | Mast Milk Chocolate ($20) | Mike’s Hot Honey ($14.89) | Inna Jam Seascape Strawberry ($13.50) | Stumptown Coffee Roasters House Blend ($15) | Pomodoro Pasta Sauce ($12) | Jacobsen Flake Finishing Sea Salt ($12) | Peppermint Bark Cookies ($24.50) | Balsamic Mustard ($10)

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