August 26, 2014 | by Cyd Converse
Next week marks the official start of the school year for us and I just can’t believe that summer vacation is nearly over! I know school has already started back up in many parts of the country, but I still wanted to take today to share some of the best back to school DIY ideas. I always loved starting the school year feeling fresh and organized and ready to tackle the academic year ahead. Did anyone else always feel that way?
From irresistibly cute printables to fun teacher’s gift ideas, there’s a little bit of everything here and a whole lot of fun for kicking off the school year with a bang. Ready to get started? Click through for 10 of the best back to school DIY ideas!
August 25, 2014 | by Cyd Converse
Hi friends! Happy Monday to you! We’re back from four awesome days of camping, boating, swimming and relaxing with our family and friends and I’m already looking forward to our trip next year. Today is a day that will be spent doing laundry from the weekend (I swear we made more laundry in four days than we did in the last year), cleaning up all of our camping gear and getting back in the swing of things. While I’m working on that, I wanted to stop in with one last dose of camping love today, sharing three awesome camping inspired DIY ideas and a whole bunch of camping theme link love. Here in our area, this next week is a popular camping time heading into Labor Day weekend so hopefully you find a little something here to inspire your camping adventures if you’re packing up and heading out this week. Hip hip hooray for camping!
[DIY campfire cooking station | DIY camp chair cover | DIY herb firestarter.]
August 21, 2014 | by Cyd Converse
I’m going to take you back a few years now. Make that nine years. To the apartment I lived in during my senior of college, which more closely resembled a shanty tacked onto the back of a decrepit former frat house than an actual apartment. Where friends packed in tight to sit on a creaky metal futon and watch Project Runway. Where the winter cold seeped in through every crack possible and the pipes in the bathroom froze on a regular basis. It was truly a ramshackle little place, but it was also a place where awesome memories were made. Incidentally, it’s also where I first learned how to brew beer and make wine at home, an experience that ultimately lead me to try bottling my own cocktails. So here’s the thing. Bottled cocktails are so smart. You can make them in advance to stock up the cooler before a camping trip (which is what I did this week) so you don’t have to mess around with bottles of booze and mixers. They’re also perfect for weddings and parties and backyard barbecues, picnics at the park, tailgating or just stocking the fridge at home.
To get started, you’ll need to pick up a few specialty items at a local home brewing shop or you can order online using the links below. While there’s a little bit of an upfront cost, the best part is that everything here is reusable (save for the bottle caps) so you can make your own bottled cocktails over and over again once you have everything you need. That’s the long way of saying, don’t be daunted by this because it’s fun, easy, awesome and sure to impress your friends.
Begin by washing your glass bottles and allow them to dry completely. Then it’s time to mix up your cocktail of choice! I’ve read that if you’re planning to keep your cocktails unrefrigerated for an extended period of time that it’s best to avoid citrus mixers, as they tend to be less shelf stable than those with other ingredients. That said, I don’t usually make these too far in advance. I haven’t had any issues with using citrus mixers and keeping them for a few days before taking them on a camping trip or serving them at a party. Once you’ve determined your cocktail of choice, mix it in a pitcher and use a small funnel to fill each bottle. If you’re going with a carbonated or sparkling cocktail, be sure to pour short of the neck of the bottle so the carbonation has somewhere to release when you open your cocktails later.
Next up, it’s time to cap those bottles! You’ll need the crown capper for this, which is really easy to use. Just place a cap on top of each bottle, center the capper over top of it and then push the handles down. It takes a little bit of elbow grease to get the job done, but overall it’s a very simple process. It takes just a few seconds to cap each bottle so you can do up a whole bunch in fairly short order. From start to finish, including mixing up my cocktails, it took me less than a half hour to bottle and cap an entire case worth of cocktails. Boom!
When it comes time to serve ‘em up, you can stick a straw in it or just sip directly from the bottle. Or you can load up a glass with ice and pour over top. Totally your pick! I tend to like my campground/backyard cocktails in a mason jar filled to the top with ice, but the best part about these bad boys is that there is no glass required. This is the part where I tell you that I hope you give these a try. Because I really really do. They’re so much fun and people think they’re really cool, which they are. (And, so are you.) If you do make up your own bottled cocktails shoot me a photo on Instagram or Twitter and I’d love to see!
[Photos by Cyd Converse for The Sweetest Occasion.]
August 20, 2014 | by Cyd Converse
Can we talk about the world’s yummiest campground food this morning? Because I’m telling you, this is where it’s at. We’re talking campfire mountain pies! Have you ever had them? I’m finding that far too few people seem to know about these delicious little creations, but today I’m setting out to change all that. They’re crazy easy to make, you can change up the ingredients however you want and they’re perfect for whipping up something amazingly tasty, whether it be for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. Also, you’re going to be drooling any second now.
To get started, you’re going to need a campfire sandwich cooker like this one. We actually have two and that works out pretty good because you can pump out more pies at a faster rate when you’re dealing with a crowd…or just a couple of hungry kids. Oh, and here’s the thing. If you can cook a grilled cheese, you can cook mountain pies over a campfire. It’s seriously that ridiculously easy. Only they’re far, far more delicious.
- Sliced bread
- Butter or margarine
- Cooking spray
- Chocolate chips
- Coconut flakes
- Peanut butter
Begin by buttering two slices of bread. I love a good crusty Italian bread, but really even a very basic white sandwich bread will work here. Spray each side of the camp cooker and place one slice of bread, butter side down, into the cooker. Load it up with whatever yummy fillings you’d like. For his, my little dude went with Nutella, chocolate chips and coconut flakes because he was going after an Almond Joy inspired flavor combo. (And, um, can you blame him?) For my big dude, B went with peanut butter, sliced bananas and a sprinkling of chocolate chips. Also, amazing.
Top your concoction with the second slice of bread, butter also facing out. Close up the pie cooker and secure it, trimming any excess bread from the edges. Stick it directly on the hot coals of your fire, cooking for 5 – 6 minutes while rotating often. Remove from the fire, carefully remove the pie and then slice. Allow the pies to cool slightly before eating, because the filling will be piping hot! These pies aren’t just for dessert either. You can fill them with ham and cheese, breakfast sausage, cheese and pepperoni, whatever you can dream up. So now, you should go make yourself one of these bad boys. They’re amazing. You can thank me later.
[Photos + recipe by Cyd Converse for The Sweetest Occasion.]
August 19, 2014 | by Cyd Converse
We’re two days out from our camping trip and today we’re putting all the finishing touches on packing. Thursday morning we’ll be filling up our coffee mugs, loading up and heading out. This big annual trip actually takes place on an island (in the Thousand Islands along the St. Lawrence River) so while we have the ability to get to and from the mainland by boat, we try to make sure we don’t forget any of our essentials because running out for supplies is a kind of a pain. At the same time, we don’t like to pack too much because we have to shuttle everything to the island by boat so we also can’t just pack stuff for the sake of packing stuff. Over the last few years of going on this trip, I’ve broken our packing process down into a method that seems to keep us pretty organized so today I’m sharing my must-have camping supplies as well as a few tips for packing!
First up, a few things I can’t live without while camping! A percolator for making coffee over the fire and a couple of good mugs. (I love enamel camp mugs, but your favorite mug will be fine!) There’s nothing I love more than waking up early in the woods and sipping coffee while the day wakes up. Folding chairs (these ones are adorable but any basic folding chair or camp chair will do) are essential for lounging while sipping said coffee or chilling by a fire in the evenings. A cast iron skillet for cooking up grub over the fire (see 10 awesome camping recipes to get inspired), a high quality water bottle for staying hydrated and a stash of notebooks for the brainstorms and ideas that inevitably occur once I’m happy and relaxed. Oh, and bonfire forks! You can use them for everything from marshmallows to hot dogs and I never leave home to go camping without them.
Click through for my camping packing tips!