The #thesweetestoccasion Challenge + Pop Up Giveaways

The Resort at Paws Up | Photo by @cydconverse

Before we make our way back to our regularly scheduled programming this week, I want to take the first step toward making good on one of my goals for 2015. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you know I post there regularly and check in several times a day to answer your questions and chit chat with you. This year, I want to do so much more of that! I spent a long time thinking about this over the little holiday break, trying to brainstorm ways we could connect more frequently and more personally with each other, beyond me just waxing poetic about some pretty thing or another that has recently caught my eye. (Although don’t get me wrong, that’s fun, too!) And I also want to make good on my goal to inspire you to find beauty in each and every day. So I devised a little plan that revolves around a whole year of monthly pop-up giveaways! I’m excited and hope you are, too!

Charleston | Photo by @cydconverse

So here’s how it works. Once a month I’m going to randomly select a reader to receive a little gift from me! Consider it a token of affection. Consider it my way of trying to bring a little random cheer to your life. Consider it a hug. Consider it a thank you for always being so gosh darn supportive. In order to be eligible, you’ll need to follow The Sweetest Occasion on Instagram. I want you to share with me what you’re seeing, loving and doing. Tell me about your hobbies, your travels, your kids, your pets, your home improvement projects, your recent dinner party with friends or your favorite local shop or ice cream stand. The focus here is on sharing and celebrating more of life’s little moments with each other. Here and there as you think of it, tag me (being sure to include my username @thesweetestoccasion so I see it pop up) and tell me all about it! Got a fresh manicure with a nail color you’re loving and it’s just making your day? Show me! I want to see and share your sweetest occasions, big, small or tiny, all year long. Tag me in your photo and also use the hashtag #thesweetestoccasion so other readers can see your photos and join in on the fun, too!

The idea here is to spread joy! To encourage each other to appreciate the small things. To find more moments worth appreciating in the midst of what can oftentimes feel like a hectic world. Each month I’ll choose a reader who has personally inspired me to receive a little gift. You’ll know it’s you if I comment on your photo that month with my email address asking you to send me an email with your shipping address. And then I’ll send you a little surprise! You don’t need to have the most amazing photos, you don’t have to have loads of followers, you don’t have to have the most compelling styling. I just want to see what’s moving you and inspiring you, and that’s all it takes to be in the running. In addition to these pop-up giveaways hopefully we’ll all take away a lot more, which is appreciation and love for our lives and the people and things that fill our life with joy. And it all starts today! So give me a follow and start tagging away!

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These photos represent some of my personal favorite moments from 2014. My trip to The Resort at Paws Up in Montana and my second visit to Charleston, South Carolina, a city I adore.

The Fine Print: In order to see your photos, you’ll need to include my username @thesweetestoccasion and the hashtag #thesweetestoccasion when posting to Instagram. If you have a private account, please comment on one of my Instagram photos letting me know that you’ve shared a photo with me so I can request to follow you on Instagram. Any questions? Email me at cyd@thesweetestoccasion.com

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Happy New Year + Welcome 2015

Happy Monday, and welcome back to reality, friends! I hope you all had a lovely and lazy holiday season full up with too many cookies, at least a few cat naps, an abundance of hugs and lots of new memories made with your favorite people. Our Christmas week was a flurry of activity during which I came down with a cold, so I’ve spent much of the last week trying to recharge my batteries and sort through my intentions and goals for 2015. Our ten year old black lab Nina (you can see her cute face here if you want) had unexpected surgery early last week, so when she came home on New Year’s Eve we quickly amended our plans and ended up coming home early after dinner at a friend’s house. Since then I’ve spent most of my time reading, planning and gearing up for January. (While also playing doggie nurse and keeping her heavy schedule of meds on track.) I always tell myself to take a few days to do very little but relax, rest and make my mind right for kicking off a new year, but honestly this is the first time I’ve followed through on that commitment, and I’m already so glad that I did.

Happy New Year and Welcome 2015 (Goal planning, getting organized, and podcast suggestions to jumpstart the new year!)

For those of you who love and reads scads of blogs (as I do), you’ll probably already know that 2014 was a year when a lot of bloggers talked about burn out and about all the changes the blogging industry (and yes, it really is an industry) has been facing in the last twelve months or so. I could comment on that at length, but I’m going to spare you that novella and instead just boil it down to what I’ve taken away from those discussions and reflections for myself and for the future of The Sweetest Occasion. If you’re interested you can read more about how I got here (here being a full-time professional blogger), but something I think I failed to mention there is just how much the landscape of blogging has changed since The Sweetest Occasion came about in 2008. It’s relevant to today’s little chat, because it’s forming a lot of where I want to head in 2015.

So let’s back it up for a minute and go back five or six years ago to the day I moved over from Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress site with my own domain, which is really the day that ultimately laid the groundwork for where my life and career has gone ever since. When I started blogging about parties, entertaining and all the fun ways you could DIY, cook, and bake your way to being the hostess you always dreamed of being, there were very very few blogs centered on entertaining and parties. Most celebration-centric blogs were entirely focused on weddings, and that distinction immediately allowed The Sweetest Occasion to stand out from the pack. It was not anything I did consciously or strategically, it was simply a natural extension of my personal passions and interests. As we all know, the internet is now flooded with amazingly talented bloggers creating awe-inspiring content crafted to make you want to host impeccably designed parties all year long. I love that. Those bloggers inspire me in so many ways I never knew possible. But from a “crap this really is my job and I need to support myself and my family and how do I continue to stand out” standpoint, it has given me great pause over the last several months. There were moments I was scared or felt like I didn’t measure up, and there were moments I felt I needed to fall in line and ride the wave alongside everyone else. There were times I felt like I had to figure it all out overnight and I grew frustrated because the answers weren’t coming as quickly as I’d hoped. Honestly, it really wasn’t until these last few weeks that I’ve realized I do have it figured out, maybe not necessarily in practice, but absolutely in intention and in mission.

As 2015 kicks off, I’m feeling more clear and more purposeful with where I want to take The Sweetest Occasion, the ways in which I want to inspire you, and the personal relationships I want to foster between us. As such, I’ve been working on a bit of a mission statement, which on one level feels kind of silly, like, why does a blog need a mission statement? But on the other hand it feels long overdue and I know it will act as the guiding principle that will help me out when I’m struggling to determine which sponsored partnerships make sense for me to take on, what content to devote my time and monetary resources to, and which path to take when I’m feeling a little muddied down. So today I wanted to kick off the new year by sharing the Cliff Notes version of that mission statement with you. This mission draws from my personal passions, my own life experiences and the things I learned from my grandmother, who continues to be my inspiration in everything I do here. Sharing this makes me feel a bit weird and kind of vulnerable, but it also feels like the most authentically me thing I’ve written in a while, and it would be a shame not to open that up to you, my friends. And as I always say, yes, I truly do consider each and every one of you a friend.

At the heart of The Sweetest Occasion is the desire to inspire you to live your most beautiful life. To help you find moments of joy in every day, to encourage you to try a new recipe or feel less intimidated about painting your living room or hosting a party. I am committed to feautring trend-forward yet timeless and approachable design, with the goal of making a well-designed lifestyle both accessible and achievable. This isn’t about overly complicated, expensive or exhaustive DIY tutorials or decor that’s as budget-busting as it is beautiful. It’s about encouraging more moments spent and more memories made with loved ones. It’s about taking time to celebrate life together. It’s about creating a life and home that allows you to feel like the best version of you. It’s about showing you that none of these things have to be stressful, but that in fact they can be a stress relief. It’s no secret that I am obsessed with pretty things, but I want those pretty things I share to add to your life in a way that’s fuss-free and not even a little bit pretentious. Let’s remember together that life is unpredictable, life is short and our relationships with each other are of greater importance than anything else. Life is sweet, so let’s make the most of every occasion.

And there you have it, friends! In a nutshell, those few sentences are directing all of my planning and all of my goals for 2015. I will tell you that in 2014 I became a massive podcast junkie, and I sincerely believe that helped me to wrap my head around all of these things that have been floating around in there over the last year. If you’re ready to kickstart 2015 with a bang I highly recommend Grace Bonney’s podcast After the Jump and Jess Lively’s podcast The Lively Show. I believe I’ve listened to just about every single episode of each and I can’t suggest them enough, whether you’re a blogger, a business owner or otherwise. Over on Instagram today, I’m sharing some of my favorite organizational tools (including my 2015 Day Designer as seen above) that I’m utilizing to bring all of these plans and goals to life, because a mission statement ain’t nothing without action.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re a rockstar. Also, if you’ve made it this far I’d love to hear about your own goals or mission statements for your life or your career in 2015. Or maybe you have an awesome organizational tool or app that you’re loving? Whatever it is, I’d be thrilled if you shared. Here’s wishing you a happy new year full of awesome, exciting things and many beautiful little moments in between. xoxo

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[Photo by Cyd Converse for The Sweetest Occasion.]

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A Colorful + Festive New Year’s Eve Party

We’re ushering in the New Year with a look back at this colorful and festive New Year’s Eve party that Mindy Kaisner of Modern Mindy planned last year for a group of girlfriends. Mindy is an interior designer turned event planner, and with this party she was all about bringing the sparkle with a fun at-home party that’s a testament to working with your home décor and adding a few special touches to throw a killer party. Some fabulous tassel garland looped along the dining room table, a few pretty flowers and fun details like using clementines to label appetizers and you’re in business. Of course, a sequined table cloth and a big display of baked goods and cocktails never hurt anything either. Here’s hoping your New Year’s Eve celebration is festive and sparkly this evening!

A Colorful and Festive New Year's Eve Party from @cydconverse

A Colorful and Festive New Year's Eve Party from @cydconverse

View More: http://kristi-lee.pass.us/styled-shoot-final A Colorful and Festive New Year's Eve Party from @cydconverse

A Colorful and Festive New Year's Eve Party from @cydconverse

A Colorful and Festive New Year's Eve Party from @cydconverse

A Colorful and Festive New Year's Eve Party from @cydconverse

View More: http://kristi-lee.pass.us/styled-shoot-final View More: http://kristi-lee.pass.us/styled-shoot-final

View More: http://kristi-lee.pass.us/styled-shoot-final

A Colorful and Festive New Year's Eve Party from @cydconverse

new-years-eve-party-ideas-2014 A Colorful and Festive New Year's Eve Party from @cydconverse

A Colorful and Festive New Year's Eve Party from @cydconverse

View More: http://kristi-lee.pass.us/styled-shoot-final View More: http://kristi-lee.pass.us/styled-shoot-final

A Colorful and Festive New Year's Eve Party from @cydconverse

Many thanks to Mindy for sharing this awesome party with us and to Kristi Lee Photography for the beautiful images. I will never ever grow tired of a fabulous New Year’s Eve bash.

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[Styling by Modern Mindy | Photos by Kristi Lee Photography.]

Vendors + Sources –
Photography by Kristi Lee Photography | Styling by Mindy Kaisner of Modern Mindy | Party supplies from So Chic Boutique | Florals by Floral Design ltd | Hand lettering by Laura Jean Designs | Hair + makeup by Brittany Lavender of B.Loved Stylists  | Baked goods by Goodness BakeShoppe | Clothing + accessories from Market 139

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Homemade Chocolate Truffles

Before we get carried away with New Year’s resolutions and all that clean-eating we know is coming right around the corner, let’s make chocolate truffles, ok? Cool. Shared by the sweet Lauren of Lauren Werkheiser Photography, these delicious little things are insanely easy to make, which makes them perfect for whipping up for a New Year’s Eve party or brunch on New Year’s day. Or how about that friend or neighbor you really wanted to give a little token of affection for the holidays? She will love a little batch of these tucked away in a mason jar with some pretty ribbon. These will literally melt in your mouth. And, no, I won’t hold it against you if you just make a batch for yourself.

Homemade Chocolate Truffles from @cydconverse

Homemade Chocolate Truffles by @cydconverse

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips,
  • 1 cup less 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Juice from 1/2 of an orange
  • Cocoa powder
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Sprinkles
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract

In a medium saucepan, over low to medium heat, combine cream, chocolate chips, and the juice from the orange. Alternately, sub out the orange juice for the peppermint extract. Stir until completely melted, then remove from the heat, cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, roll to form approximately 1 tesapoon-sized balls (or larger to suit your taste) and then cover in your choice of sprinkles, cocoa powder or confectioner’s sugar. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to one week.

Homemade Chocolate Truffles by @cydconverse

Homemade Chocolate Truffles by @cydconverse

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[Recipe + photos by Lauren Werkheiser Photography.]

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An Easy New Year’s Cocktail Station

This post was sponsored by Seagram’s Escapes. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that so
generously help The Sweetest Occasion keep on keepin’ on!

An Easy New Year's Cocktail Station by @cydconverse

Hi, friends! I hope everyone had an amazing Christmas for those of you who celebrate and an awesome weekend in general for those of you who do not. I’m going to be continuing to take a little bit of time off now through January 5, but I’ll be popping in here and there all week. So let’s get onto the good stuff and talk New Year’s Eve, shall we? Of course, no New Year’s celebration is complete without a festive cocktail or two and today we’re toasting 2015 with an easy New Year’s cocktail station! This is perfect for New Year’s Eve, but I’m actually kind of partial to hosting friends open house style on New Year’s Day. You can set up an easy make your own cocktail bar and whip up just a few yummy snacks, invite friends to stop over anytime between 10am and 1pm (or whatever times you prefer) and you have a fun, festive and stress-free way to say cheers to the New Year with friends.

An Easy New Year's Cocktail Station by @cydconverse

An Easy New Year's Cocktail Station by @cydconverse

Begin by stocking up on your favorite flavors of Seagram’s Escapes. I’m partial to the berry-centric flavors, but that’s kind of my jam in general when it comes to anything fruity. Line them up along a table, sideboard or even the kitchen counter with a big bowl of ice, straws, coasters and a bunch of fruit garnishes. I set mine out in little glass footed ice cream sundae bowls. I love berries (again with the berries) and peaches, but pineapple, mango, apple, oranges or any other fruits you love would work great. I love that the vibrant flavors and colors of the Seagram’s Escapes bottles are instantly festive so they do a lot of the work for you when it comes to creating a pretty spread.

An Easy New Year's Cocktail Station by @cydconverse

An Easy New Year's Cocktail Station by @cydconverse

An Easy New Year's Cocktail Station by @cydconverse An Easy New Year's Cocktail Station by @cydconverse

As friends pop in to exchange well wishes for the New Year, you can invite them to help themselves to a cocktail. From there they’ll have a ball mixing and matching flavors, adding whatever fruit they love best and all you’ll have to do is occasionally swap out the ice and make sure you’re fully stocked on garnishes. This frees you up to mingle and spend time chit chatting without running around trying to refill drinks, because while hosting is fun, that part is never much fun at all. This isn’t supposed to feel like work, friends!

An Easy New Year's Cocktail Station by @cydconverse

An Easy New Year's Cocktail Station by @cydconverse

If you’re hosting during the day, a few breakfast pastries like croissants and scones stacked up on a pretty cake stand or two will do the trick perfectly for offering guests a little something to munch on. If you’re having friends over on New Year’s Eve, I love the idea of setting out a few trays with easy, fun snacks like sliders and fries. And that’s that. I told you this was easy! With festive cocktails and something yummy to snack on, you can never go wrong.

An Easy New Year's Cocktail Station by @cydconverse

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[Photos + styling by Cyd Converse for The Sweetest Occasion.]

Sources –
Coasters from The Pink Orange
Paper straws from Shop Sweet Lulu

This post was sponsored by Seagram’s Escapes. Follow along at #keepitcolorful. Read more about our editorial policies.

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