March 3, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
Just in time for the end of the work week, Samantha and Chanda of Zest It Up are sharing the perfect cocktail recipe to kick off weekend happy hour. (Also, do you remember these chocolate covered vodka cherries they shared before? Yum!) We’re talking a fresh, citrusy, Meyer lemon inspired drink they’ve dubbed the lemon thyme blueberry spritzer. Yes, yes and yes, please. This is the type of drink you can make by the pitcher so it’s perfect for casual entertaining after work on a Friday or for brunch on a Saturday. Plus, Meyer lemons. Precisely 100% of things made with Meyer lemons are delicious and this cocktail is one that is sure to follow suit.
Makes 1 pitcher
- 1 cup blueberries
- 3 Meyer lemons
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 bottle dry white wine
- 3 cups tonic water
- 8 – 10 sprigs of fresh thyme
Start by zesting your lemons, then squeeze lemons and separate seeds from juice. Next muddle your blueberries. The ingredients above will make a full pitcher, but to chill make in a large cocktail shaker filled with ice. Pour equal parts white wine and tonic water into shaker over ice. Shake. Next pour into pitcher and repeat until all wine and tonic water is mixed and chilled. Add sugar, lemon juice, zest, muddled blueberries and thyme sprigs to pitcher. Keep refrigerated or serve immediately. Alternately, if you’d like to make in advance simply make wine and fruit mixture ahead then add tonic water just before serving.
[Recipe by Zest It Up | Photos by Anya McInroy.]
March 2, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
Weight loss. This is a topic I haven’t talked a lot about in the past, but I’m going to try really hard to be more open and honest about. I want to start sharing both the triumphs and the trials in hopes those of us who are in the same boat with wanting to improve our overall health can find support from each other. Sometimes it feels so isolating to be someone who struggles with weight issues when the blogging community seems to be full of really thin, gorgeous women and there are times I feel like I’ve really let it hold me back from going after some of my professional goals. (Like that YouTube channel I have been wanting to start for like three years? Ugh. I can’t even imagine getting in front of a camera!) So today is step one in coming out of the closet, if you will, and trying to pull back the curtain to say hey! I’m here. I’m not a size 2. Or a size 6. Or a size 10. I have the same self doubts and struggles that you do, and I’m hoping that through this transparency we can all help each other succeed at moving forward past the insecurities to a place where we feel healthier and more at peace. That’s my intention anyway. I’ll share more about the full extent of my weight loss struggles at another time (including the time I lost over 100 pounds but managed to slowly let a ton of it creep back on), but for today I just wanted to kick things off by talking about what I’ve been doing lately and how it is working for me. Because so many of you expressed interest in hearing more about my journey I thought I would share a quick update, specifically sharing about my 30 day (and counting) sugar detox results! Moving forward I’m thinking I’ll check in maybe once a month or so to share my progress, and probably more frequently over on Instagram if you want to follow along there.
For starters, let me share that I am serious believer in the power of food and nutrition to solve most, if not all, of a body’s woes. I believe this to be true when it comes to regulating weight as well. My major food weakness? Sugar. Oh, sweet heavenly sugar. Also, it turns out, sugar is basically poison for your body. And yes, sadly, that includes artificial sugars and sweeteners, too. Diet soda? It’s one of the worst things for you. My Diet Pepsi loving soul hates this fact, but it’s the truth. In January, I made the decision that as of February 1st I was going to give up all sugar and everything with added sugar. (You know, like ketchup and store bought salad dressings. All full of sugar!) I am also avoiding all artificial or natural sweeteners, including things like honey and maple syrup right now until I feel like I can use them only sparingly. I also decided to cut back on dairy and any processed wheat such as bread, pasta, etc. because my body tends to be really sensitive to those foods. I’m not saying I’ll never eat a cupcake again, because that’s just not going to happen. But on a day to day basis I am eating a diet that is essentially 100% compromised of veggies, fruits, whole grains such as quinoa, beans, nuts, seeds and eggs. I may have a bit of cream (real cream, not creamer) in my coffee. I occasionally pick up olives stuffed with blue cheese. Otherwise, I’ve cut out most all dairy, too. I have not touched bread or pasta or crackers or cookies or anything of the like for 30 days and counting. And you know what? Save for a few days of mild sugar withdrawal headaches (akin to caffeine withdrawal headaches), I feel pretty amazing!
As of today, I am down 11 pounds since February 1. This is in addition to the 22 pounds of baby weight (I only gained about 20 during my pregnancy) I had already lost, meaning in total I am down 33 pounds since my c-section in November. Sometimes I’m frustrated because it’s not going quicker, if I’m honest. I’ve completely overhauled how I eat and I was really hoping I’d see more like 13 – 15 pounds the first month. (Keep in mind, I have a not insignificant amount of weight left to lose.) But you know what? 11 pounds is kind of awesome, too, and I’ll take it! Add in the fact that my energy level really seems to be up (which is tricky in and of itself with a three month old in the mix), and I would have to say, I’m a believer. Additionally, I’ve lost a little over an inch around my waist and a little over an inch around my hips, too, which definitely seems like a good starting point considering I have a lot of swelling from my c-section still.
I think it’s important to note that I am not following any specific plan or “diet” at this point in time. I am simply trying to eat real, whole foods. I have not counted a single calorie or measured a single serving. Also, to date I have not been cleared to exercise so I have not been working out either. I eat things like baked sweet potatoes with spinach and black beans and fresh pico de gallo. Or salads loaded with veggies, greens, a bit of hummus and simple homemade vinaigrettes. I make big batches of grains (usually quinoa and sometimes barley or brown rice) a couple of times a week and then quickly make little hodge podge meals on the go, usually with a baby in one arm. (I’ve already shared my go-to lunch these days!) If you want to consider something like this yourself, I suggest checking out Hello Glow, a wellness site that I really love. (All of the photos in this post are from Hello Glow, to give you a little taste of the goodness that Stephanie has going on!) There are loads of great recipes and tips that will really help you get started with overhauling your diet, but it manages to feel pretty approachable and not overly crunchy. (I mean I’m down with some crunch clearly, but I don’t like to get too carried away with myself.) Also, watch the documentary Fed Up and Google search “sugar detox” and you’ll start to find loads of information.
So, lay it on me! Any tips or recipes for me? How about questions for me? Is anyone else trying to lose a whole crapload of ell bees this year? I am committed to being as open and honest with you about this process as I can. Eventually that will even mean sharing really real before numbers and photos, but I’m just not there yet. Give me a couple more months and hopefully I’ll have some good progress photos! In the meantime I’m going to be over here experimenting with the health benefits of turmeric and matcha, because both seem to be everywhere these days and apparently I can’t resist exploring the hype for myself. Thanks for your support, friends! You’re all amazing.
[Photos from Hello Glow.]
March 1, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
In case you blinked and missed it, today marks the start of March! We’re just over two weeks out from St. Patrick’s Day, which means it’s officially fair game to start talking about all things green and stocking the fridge with the requisite supply of Guinness. Speaking of Guinness, have you seen the number of ways the genius people of the internet are working stout into everything from cupcakes to brownies to beer nuts? It’s true and it’s so so good. In honor of your Irish heritage (because everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day), I’ve rounded up 17 ways to get your fix with some seriously delicious Guinness recipes.
1. Double Chocolate Guinness Muffins [above]
2. Guinness Chocolate Cake
3. Baby Guinness Jello Shots
4. Black and Tan Brownies
5. Guinness Beer Nuts
6. Chocolate Guinness Cake
7. Homemade Stout Marshmallows
8. Guinness Beer Battered Onion Rings
9. Chocolate Guinness Floats
10. Guinness and Pretzel Truffles
11. Double Chocolate Chunk Guinness Ice Cream
12. Guinness Barbecue Sauce
13. Beef and Guinness Hand Pies
14. Guinness Crinkle Cookies
15. Sweet and Salty Guinness Chocolate Pie
16. Dublin Iced Coffee
17. Guinness and Pretzel Caramels
February 26, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
This post was sponsored by Dr. Oetker Ristorante Pizza. Thank you for supporting
the sponsors that help make The Sweetest Occasion possible!
This time of year is right around the time where I start getting a little antsy for spring. The glimmer of the holidays has long since faded, but warm weather still feels so far off. If the last few weeks have been any indication, we still have more than our fair share of big winter storms to get through before there is any sense at all in talking about spring, which I think is true for many parts of the country. All of that said, the timing couldn’t be more perfect to team up with Dr. Oetker Ristorante Pizza to bring you your official survival guide for impromptu snow day entertaining. And what better way is there to entertain than with pizza and board games? Precisely. There is no better way.
Let me set the scene. It’s snowing and freezing cold, the roads are sketchy and you’ve officially had your Netflix and chill fill for the week. There’s no way you’re wandering too far from home, but you’re starting to enter the early stages of cabin fever. That, friends, is when you text your neighbors and friends who live close by and invite them over for an impromptu board game party! Crisis solved. Having experienced many such days myself considering we live in the direct path of Lake Ontario’s world famous lake effect snow storms, I’ve got this down to a science.
Critical to any gathering of any size? The food. In this case, it couldn’t be easier. Pull a couple of your favorite Ristorante varieties from the freezer and pop them in the oven! I’m personally partial to the Pizza Spinaci and the Pizza Mozzarella, but the Pepperoni Pesto and Pollo varieties are also big hits around here. They bake to crispy perfection in about 12 to 14 minutes at 425° so you can keep a stash on hand at all times and easily entertain on the fly. (Check out the store locator to find where Ristorante is sold or put in a request with the manager at your favorite store!) The thin, crispy crust and the gourmet flavor pairings (there are nine to choose from) are sure to impress. (Even when your friends show up wearing yoga pants and snow boots.) Have your pals grab whatever beer they have sitting in the fridge on their way out the door and you’re officially good to go.
We have a pretty extensive collection of board games at the ready at all times because we tend to have a lot of game nights at our house. That said, you can start your stash with just a few favorites if you don’t have many. We find that old school games tend to be a hit with any crowd. Everyone loves the classics! If all you have is a deck of cards, you’ll be set, too. (You know, because it’s a snow storm and you’re not running out to shop at the moment.) A good Rummy grudge match will keep a crowd entertained for hours. Bob and I have played countless hands of Rummy over the years and he still likes to play even though I always beat him. (True story. My grandmother played a wicked game of Rummy and she taught me all of her strategies.)
For the ultimate snow day vibes, amp up the coziness by pulling out stacks of throw blankets, lighting a few candles and making sure things are feeling warm and toasty. Also, don’t forget the music! A great playlist is simple to pull together while your pizzas are baking and your visitors are en route and it will create an instant party atmosphere if your guests are greeted with music in the background as they make their way in from the cold. You can take up residence at the dining room table or toss a bunch of pillows on the floor and cozy on up around the coffee table in the living room. Feeling fancy? Serve your pizza up on a pretty cutting board and set out a few mini notebooks and a bunch of pencils for score keeping. You are now officially the ultimate snow day hostess.
For more recipes, tips and entertaining ideas, be sure to give Dr. Oetker a follow on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest! And I’d love for you to share your favorite snow day pastimes with me! Binge watching Gilmore Girls? (Been there, done that.) Baking? Crafting? Watching Dirty Dancing for the hundredth time? Share with me! Something tells me we’ve got a few big storms left before this winter is in the books.
[Art direction + styling by Cyd Converse | Photos by Alice G. Patterson for The Sweetest Occasion.]
This post was sponsored by Dr. Oetker USA LLC. I received compensation for this post, but all opinions are my own. Read more about our editorial policies.
February 25, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
I’m pretty sure we just stopped crafting Christmas ornaments and somehow, we’re creeping up on St. Patrick’s Day. Is anyone else feeling that way? Luckily, I love St. Patrick’s Day if for no other reason than it means that spring is near. Also, Irish coffee. No complaints there. I’ve gotten a few requests already for a round-up of St. Patrick’s day recipes and cocktails, which tells me that we’re all starting to think about our annual Guinness binge fest. Ask and you shall receive! I’ve got the traditional fare, the cocktails, the beer and the sweets all right here for you. Consider this your menu guide for bringing the Irish pub into your home this year.
Click through to check out 12 must-try St. Patrick’s Day recipes!