January 24, 2017 | by Cyd Converse
I have been an avid reader since the earliest of days. As soon as I could pick up a book and flip the pages, I was hooked. I was a mega mega bookworm as a kid, to the point where I think my father even thought something might be wrong with me because I preferred books over television and what kid likes books more than television? As an adult I still love to read, but it seems to get continuously tougher and tougher to find the time. On my personal Facebook page I recently shared with friends that since the baby was born the only time I’ve really been able to read has been when I’ve been on planes. One of my goals this year is to read more, although I’m also being realistic about how long it’s going to take me to get through a book. I’ve set a benchmark of reading a book a month, which is still a far cry from my book a week or more from my days of yore, but I’m happy with that as a start in these crazy days of working and caring for an active tiny toddler full time. On Facebook, I asked friends for some recommendations to get me started and was happy to have one of our amazing neighbors (Hi, Sarah!) show up at my door with a stack of goodies. Her stash combined with one I already had comprise my winter reading list!
Fates and Furies is the book I’m reading currently. I picked it up in the airport in Portland on my way home from Oregon back in October and after misplacing it temporarily, I’m now more than halfway through. It follows the life of a married couple over twenty or so years of their life together and is a really interesting look at their relationship and the ups and downs they face together. So far it’s a really good read!
When I asked my pals on Facebook for recommendations, several people chimed in with enthusiastic approval for A Man Called Ove. It follows the story of an older man who strikes up an unexpected friendship with a young family who moves in next door. I am thinking this one will be my next read and I’m really excited to dig into it based on the number of friends who recommended this book.
All the Light We Cannot See is another book that got recommended several times in response to my Facebook call out for suggestions. I’ve picked this one up, read the back and considered it multiple times in airport book stores so it seemed like a fitting time to put it on my list. This historical fiction piece centers on a French girl and a German boy whose lives intersect during World War II. I am really looking forward to this one!
My final pick for the month is Everything I Never Told You, which I’m told is a quick but ultimately very good read. Again, this is one I’ve looked at and considered a few different times, about a Chinese American family living in Ohio whose daughter shows up murdered. Has anyone already read it? Any other suggestions to add to my list for once I finish these up? Chime in and fill me in on your recent favorites! I’d love to know what you’re loving.
[Art direction + styling by Cyd Converse | Photos by Alice G. Patterson for The Sweetest Occasion.]
January 23, 2017 | by Cyd Converse
If you’re a long time friend around these parts, you may recognize this recipe! It’s one I’ve actually shared a couple of times before, but because it’s such a solid recipe and one I personally love so very much, it felt like it was time to share it again. With far prettier, updated photos of course. These are, quite simply, the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookies you will ever eat. I say that completely humbly, I might add. They are both ever so slightly crispy around the edges and chewy in the center, a texture imparted by the addition of the oats. I love to add just a hint of peanut butter, but you can easily skip that part if you have an allergy or just don’t have it on hand. I haven’t tried them yet with almond butter, but that’s definitely something I plan to try. The key is to not add so much that the peanut butter overwhelms things, but rather just enhances the other flavors. In a word, these cookies are seriously delicious.
To give you a feel for just how long thees cookies have been a mainstay in my world, you should know that I started working on this recipe back in my cold, dark college apartment. I probably shouldn’t admit how many years ago that was, but I’d estimate the first batch of these cookies as dating back nearly 12 or maybe even 13 years. Since then I’ve tweaked and adjusted things a little bit at a time until perfection (or my version of it) was achieved. These are both a very simple cookie, perfect for baking on a Saturday afternoon just because, and a serious crowd pleaser worthy of baking for parties or bringing to a friend who’s had an especially crappy week. These are your everyday cookies and your special occasion cookies. These are your celebration cookies and your “ugh, he’s such a jerk” cookies. You’re going to love them and is everyone you know. Cross my heart. Promise. Big time.
Best Ever Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes approximately 36 cookies
- 2 cups of all purpose flour
- 1-1/4 cups packed brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups oats (rolled or quick oats)
- 2 cups chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoon peanut butter (optional)
Preheat oven to 350° then sift together flour and baking soda. In a separate bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, eggs, sugars, and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients by adding the flour mixture to the sugar and butter mixture a bit at a time. The dough will be very stiff. Add oats until well combined, then add chocolate chips and peanut butter. Drop onto an ungreased baking sheet. For best results, use a cookie scoop to measure an equal amount for each cookie, and form the dough into slightly flattened puck-like shapes on the tray before placing in the oven. Bake for 9 – 12 minutes or until golden around the edges. Allow to cool slightly, then remove to a baking rack to continue cooling. Best served room temperature or just barely warm.
[Art direction, recipes + styling by Cyd Converse | Photos by Alice G. Patterson for The Sweetest Occasion.]
January 19, 2017 | by Cyd Converse
Friends, let’s talk about planners! Does anyone else love starting the year with a fresh, crisp, clean new planner? For me it’s a carry over from my college days and while I use Google Calendar for tracking my editorial calendar and deadlines (gotta love those reminder alerts), my daily go-to system for staying organized is a classic tangible pen-on-paper planner. A few years ago (I think it was 2104 to be more precise), I got myself on the wait list and picked up one of the seriously coveted Day Designer planners. (I mean, come on, there was a wait list for a planner!) I was really really excited because of the unique daily layout featuring both a schedule and a to-do list. At just shy of $60, it felt like a small investment of sorts and I was so worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype, but all of that was for naught. I loved my Day Designer and I’ve been a loyal addict ever since.
Last year, with a newborn in the mix, I made a slight change and started using the Blue Sky edition of the Day Designer. It packs a lot of the same punch as the original Day Designer including the helpful worksheets at the front to help you get focused and organized for the year. Where it differs is in the layout, which is weekly instead of daily. So instead of one day per page, this version features one full week per spread, but still features a really handy schedule with a to-do list for the week and the top three tasks you need to tackle each day. Since having the baby, my weeks are much more fluid and entirely less regimented so being able to see the whole week at once is a much more useful layout for me at this point in time. Bonus! The price is a little less than half of the original Day Designer, although I have to say, I do feel the Day Designer is entirely worth the price if it suits your lifestyle and needs.
Each month in the Day Designer (regardless of edition) opens with a monthly calendar view that then leads right into the month itself, either daily or monthly pages. This monthly view spread is where I keep a detailed overview of each month. The spaces are large enough where I can keep a written copy of my deadlines, track orthodontist appointments, birthdays, etc. and keep our family and my work obligations all neat and organized in one place. Between the two versions, this is now my fourth year using a Day Designer and I am such a fan that I thought it warranted sharing with you. Also, if you care about such things (as I very definitely do), I am a loyal Pilot G2-05 user and have been since architecture school. (In black, only.) I honestly have not bought any other kind of pen in a solid 13 or 14, possibly even 15 years, no joke. I keep them stashed in my desk, the kitchen drawers, my purse, the diaper bag, my camera bag, and on and on, and very rarely even write with any other kind of pen. My Pilot pens and my Day Designer are a little dream team for the Type A side of my brain. Sitting down to start filling out my week or the month ahead with a cup of coffee is one of the most satisfying things to me and without this planner I’d be chasing my own tail at least 50% of the time. What about you? Any other great day planners you love? What about pens? I sincerely doubt I’m cheating on my Pilot pens anytime soon (please let them never be discontinued!), but maybe you can at least assure me I’m not alone in the crazy pen lady department?
[Art direction + styling by Cyd Converse | Photos by Alice G. Patterson.]
January 18, 2017 | by Cyd Converse
When we last left off with our home renovation and decorating adventures, I shared that we were starting to really work on a design plan for our living room. I created a mood board to help capture the vibe and color palette I was after and then jumped into the details of pulling things together. Our initial living room renovation, which we tackled as soon as we closed and actually before we even moved in, included removing multiple layers of wallpaper, fixing the original 100+ year old plaster walls, painting every square inch of wall and trim, removing the 40+ year old carpet, cleaning up the hardwood floors and on and on. It felt like we’d never finally have a room that felt comfortable for watching movies, having friends over to watch the game or for cuddling up with a good book. Today I finally have another huge update to share, which makes me nearly giddy. Many of the pieces are coming together and, most excitingly, we have a new sofa! The amazing folks at Article sent along the most stunning blue velvet sofa (the Sven sectional in Cascadia Blue) which is now the undeniable star of our living room. I’ve clocked more than one nap on it already as I was struggling to get healthy over the holidays, so I can attest to it easily being the prettiest and comfiest piece of furniture I’ve ever owned.
If you’re not familiar with Article, I hope this serves as a super enthusiastic introduction! Article is a pretty incredible brand, producing really beautiful furniture and accessories at amazing prices. Pieces, I should note, that ship easily, quickly and without hassle throughout Canada and the lower 48 for an incredibly reasonable rate of just $49. Plus, if for some reason you don’t love your purchase, you have 30 days to return it, all you have to pay is the $49 to ship it back. Seriously, friends, this is brilliant! All of this is really deeply important and notable to me personally, because where we live our only furniture options are very traditional showroom retailers where prices are high and selection is slim to none. As someone who is really design conscious, walking into a furniture store and slapping down several thousand dollars on some overstuffed mushroom colored microfiber sofa was just not an option. Actually, that description pretty well describes the sofa set we kicked to the curb that I’d had for several years after buying it secondhand on Craigslist. The stuff was literally falling apart, but I refused to replace it because 900 trips to every furniture store within an hour of us had proven to be a waste. And then, along came Article. With beautifully designed furniture where every detail is considered, where the quality is truly amazing, where you order it online, skip the showroom markup, and a couple of nice people show up in a big truck and unpack it in your living room right where you want it. Mind boggling, earth shattering, life changing if you’re a lady like me. Trust me when I say, the hyperbole is completely warranted.
In addition to the new sofa, we also have curtains hung on all of the big, huge old windows and a new area rug anchoring the primary seating group in front of the fireplace. I sort of love the monochromatic blue-on-blue look and the flat weave of the wool carpet makes it really easy to clean up spills. Speaking of, I was a little wary about velvet upholstery in a very kid-friendly house but so far I’m impressed. The few little smudges we’ve had have cleaned off easily and a quick lint roll has easily cleaned up the inadvertent dog hair that has landed on the sofa. (Although I should mention that we don’t allow our dog on furniture so this is just hair that collects there despite our best attempts. Haha!) I’m currently finalizing decisions for a few other key pieces in the room, primary among those being a pair of arm chairs to flank the fireplace opposite the sectional. The fireplace is actually going to undergo a little bit of a makeover this week, too, until we’re able to invest in a gas insert and a tile or stone surround. We also have a big television that’s going to be mounted over the fireplace (we can debate the merits of that move another day) and art work that needs to be hung, too. Finally, once all those other pieces are in place, Emerson’s little play area at the end of the room will come together really easily and I plan to break that down in detail once we get to that point. So, stay tuned for a handful more living room posts before the big final room reveal! (Which I also plan to share on Facebook Live, so you can really check out the flow of the room.) I feel really impressed with myself using those words, but I am also so excited to be at this point. I’ve dreamed of having a really beautiful main gathering space in our home for seemingly a million years so it feels like a dream watching it all come together. Stay tuned! I can’t wait to share how it all comes together.
p.s. If you just so happen to be wondering, yes. The sofa is Emerson approved. Also, our child is a complete ham for the camera any chance she gets. And check out all those teeth!
I did not receive compensation for this post, although Article did provide the Sven sofa for review. All opinions and over the top gushing are completely 100% my own. Read more about our editorial policies.
[Art direction + styling by Cyd Converse | Photos by Alice G. Patterson.]
January 17, 2017 | by Cyd Converse
Even though we’re already into the middle of January, there’s a large part of my internal clock that is still getting caught up to the fact that 2016 is over. Wow, what a year! On a personal level, 2016 was good to us in so many ways. We got to spend the year watching our tiny newborn baby evolve into a really cool, endlessly sweet little human. I got to hang out with her every day, watching her learn and grow while continuing to hold down the fort professionally. (Sometimes without a ton of grace, but we made it happen!) We bought and moved into the house of our dreams, the house that already feels like the home we were always supposed to call our own forever. My sister not only got married, but married a man I genuinely love and adore, and feel so grateful to call my brother in-law. Even with a tiny baby in the midst, I managed to travel a bit (to Key West for my sister’s bachelorette weekend, to Oregon to speak at The Hello Sessions and to Florida again for a cousin’s wedding.) Travel is always something that fuels me so I was glad I was able to make a few short trips happen. Additionally we were both in and attended a ton of other weddings, getting to witness and celebrate so many people we love start exciting new chapters in their lives. We made new friends of our neighbors who so quickly have come to feel like extended family to us. We spent a lot of summer nights around a fire pit, which is about our favorite way to pass time. All in all, personally I have zero complaints about 2016. It was a wild, beautiful year and I’m so grateful to live a life so full of such amazing people and to have had so many reasons to celebrate. We know and appreciate how lucky we are.
p.s. Before we go too much further, I’ll point out that the photos in this post are from a few of my personal favorite posts from this past year, in addition to your favorite posts of 2016. Scroll to the bottom of the post for links to each of the original posts for more details!