Farewell, Sweet Nina

Nina | Losing a Dog from @cydconverse

This is a really tough one to share, friends. Just before Christmas, we said goodbye to our girl Nina. As she went, my heart broke into a million pieces. At the time, I wasn’t ready to write this post although I did share on Instagram and the outpouring of love and support helped so much in those first few days as we grieved. Nina was my sidekick and partner in crime for 12 years. She had the kindest eyes and was impossibly, unendingly sweet, even at the very end when she laid curled up in my lap. Always a lover of labs, I adopted her entering my final year of architecture school and she lived with me in the world’s tiniest, coldest apartment where she quickly became the mascot of sorts among our circle of friends. I graduated from college and then grad school, and then somehow, unspeakably, the years slipped past us into a decade and then more. From career changes to countless moves across and throughout New York State, through divorce, the rebuilding of my life, the birth of our baby girl and moving into our dream home, she was always my trusty companion and I her doting momma. Behind the scenes, she was present for the shooting and creation of thousands of blog posts, dutifully keeping me company as I crafted long hours into the night or serving as clean up crew when food props would go flying as they always inevitably do. She was my family in every sense. I wish I could find words to adequately say everything she meant to me and her boys and all those who loved her. There are none. I am grateful for her years of loyalty and the sweet tenderness and love she showered upon our kids over the years. They’re as heartbroken as we are. I am grateful that in the end she found peace and that she didn’t have to suffer any longer than avoidable. I am mostly grateful to have been the human lucky enough to call her my girl all these years. There is no love like that of a doggie and I will miss her every day from here on out. Ninerdog, we love you so so much. Our hearts will never be the same with you gone.

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16 Favorite Posts from 2016

Vanilla Bean Cake Donuts with Blueberry Glaze | Baked donut recipes, party ideas and more from @cydconverse

Happy Monday and happy New Year, friends! After unexpectedly taking some extra time off last week to try and finally lick the insanely intense cold/sinus infection/plague that I came down with just before the holidays (more on that soon), I am officially working on getting back in the swing of things this week. In the end, I spent so much of the holidays sick that I never got around to baking cookies or watching half of my Christmas movie must-watch list, and I took many more naps in the last few weeks than I have in a long long time. I’m not fully up to speed just yet, but the last couple of days I’ve been feeling much better so I suppose there’s something to be said for extra sleep after all. To kick off 2017, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to look back on some of your favorite posts of 2016. Every January I love rounding up the most popular posts of the previous year and seeing how the site evolves from year to year. The process for selecting these posts (which are presented in no particular order) is a very non-scientific combination of looking at page views, Pinterest pin counts, overall social shares, etc. Not surprisingly, recipe posts, cocktail recipes and a smattering of personal and home decor related posts stole the show this past year. Stay tuned throughout the week for more in-depth personal reflections on 2016, our annual reader survey to kick off the year and a few other fun things, too! Oh and I’d love to have you chime in with what your favorite posts were this year. I’m starting to get organized to begin planning for the year and shooting new content and I always love your input. Here’s hoping your 2017 is off to a beautiful start! xoxo

1. Vanilla Bean Cake Donuts with Blueberry Glaze [above]

Fizzy Spiked Pear Punch | Champagne cocktails, cocktail recipes, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

2. Fizzy Spiked Pear Punch

Easy Party Appetizers - The Ultimate Hummus Plate | Appetizer recipes, cocktail recipes, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

3. The Ultimate Hummus Plate

DIY Homemade Margarita Body Scrub | Homemade beauty remedies, at home skin care, body scrub recipes and more!

4. DIY Homemade Margarita Body Scrub

Modern Neon Nursery Tour | Nursery ideas, home decor, entertaining tips and more from @cydconverse

5. Baby Emerson’s Nursery

Smoothie Bowl Recipes from @cydconverse

6. How to Make Fresh Summer Smoothie Bowls

Loving Patterned Cement Tile

7. Loving Patterned Cement Tile

Grapefruit Moscow Mule | Cocktail recipes, Moscow mule recipes, entertaining ideas, party themes and more from @cydconverse

8. Grapefruit Moscow Mule

Surviving Divorce | Real Divorce Stories from @cydconverse

9. Surviving Divorce (Five Years Later)

Best Ever S'mores Ice Cream Cake Recipe | Easy dessert recipes, cocktail recipes, entertaining tips, party ideas and more from @cydconverse

10. Homemade S’mores Ice Cream Cake

Baby Shower Waffle Bar | Baby shower themes, brunch ideas and more from @cydconverse

11. A Whimsical Woodland Baby Shower

Easy Party Appetizers - Antipasto Skewers | Appetizer recipes, cocktail recipes, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

12. Antipasto Skewers

Modern Baby Shower Ideas | Baby shower themes, party ideas and more from @cydconverse

13. A Modern + Elegant Tropical Baby Shower

Valentine's Day Printables | Valentine's Day craft ideas from @cydconverse

14. Strawberries and Cream White Hot Chocolate with Printables

6 Chocolate Bark Recipes | Party recipes, entertaining tips, party ideas and more from @cydconverse

15. Christmas Chocolate Bark Six Ways

DIY Gold Leaf Star Ornaments | Homemade ornaments, homemade Christmas gifts, Christmas decor ideas and more from @cydconverse

16. DIY Gold Leaf Star Ornaments

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A New Year’s Day Bloody Mary Bar

This post was sponsored by Dr. Oetker Virtuoso Pizza. Thank you for supporting
the sponsors that 
help make The Sweetest Occasion possible!

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

In our town going out for Bloody Marys is a longstanding New Year’s Day tradition to the point where some folks skip New Year’s Eve festivities entirely in order to better partake in the Bloody Marys. Inspired by that tradition, today I’ve teamed up with my friends at Dr. Oetker Virtuoso Pizza (formerly Dr. Oetker Ristorante Pizza) to create this epic Bloody Mary bar! The idea here is that you gather all the fixings for a seriously over the top Bloody Mary bar, bake up a handful of your favorite Virtuoso pizzas and then invite friends to drop over on New Year’s Day open house style throughout the day. Honestly, that is completely my idea of fun! Skip the crazy New Year’s Eve crowd, tuck in at home for the evening and then toast 2017 with the Bloody Mary bar to end all Bloody Mary bars. Here I am detailing all the ingredients you need, the pizzas I picked to pair with our Bloody Mary feast and a good, classic Bloody Mary recipe to get you started. Now all that’s left is to raise a glass in celebration. Cheers!

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Truth be told, loving a good Bloody Mary did not come naturally to me. It was very much an acquired taste that I developed over time by trying them over and over again. The first time I had a really good one, I was hooked. It was really flavorful with lots of celery salt and cracked black pepper and loaded with fun garnishes. The moral of the story became for me – gimme all the garnishes, please! Because of that hint of spice, the tomato juice base and the veggies, pizza makes the perfect Bloody Mary companion! Specifically, I baked up the Vegetable Medley, Pepperoni Pesto, Seasoned Chicken, and Mozzarella and Pesto varieties because the flavors seemed like a totally natural combination with the Bloody Mary bar. Virtuoso pizzas have that thin, crispy crust that I love and they bake perfectly in just about 12 minutes at 425° so you can easily rotate them in and out of the oven as friends drop by to partake of their New Year’s Day Bloody Mary. Cut your pizza into slices and serve simply but beautifully on a cutting board or white platter. Set out little plates and napkins and invite friends to serve themselves and munch at will!

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Bloody Mary Bar Ingredients

  • Tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Horseradish
  • Celery salt
  • Classic red hot sauce
  • Jalapeño hot sauce
  • Celery stalks
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Dill pickles
  • Mediterranean olives
  • Jalapeño cheddar
  • Colby jack
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Mild banana peppers
  • Pepperoncinis
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Jumbo shrimp
  • Cornichons
  • Button mushrooms
  • Lemon wedges
  • Carrots
  • Scallions

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Virtuoso has nine gourmet flavor varieties with that signature thin, crispy crust that makes it easily my favorite frozen pizza of all time. I prefer to bake mine directly on the rack to really crisp it up! You can track down your favorite variety by checking out the store locator to find out where Virtuoso is sold near you, or put in a request with the manager at your favorite store! The pizzas (now showcasing a new name and a sleek new box) feature a wide arrange of fresh ingredients that really make the gourmet flavors stand out, but also makes for a perfect pairing with a Bloody Mary bar. These pizzas make for easy, fuss-free entertaining while skimping on none of the fun.

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

Basic Bloody Mary Recipe

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 6 oz tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix
  • Horseradish
  • Black pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Celery salt
  • Hot sauce (optional)
  • Lemon wedge

Fill a tall cocktail glass with ice. Pour in vodka and tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix. Add a small pinch of celery salt, then a big dash of Worcestershire sauce. Next add the horseradish, black pepper and hot sauce to taste. Squeeze in the juice of one large lemon wedge, then stir. Garnish as desired and enjoy!

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

And in a flash, that’s a wrap on 2016, friends! Here’s wishing you and yours all of the beautiful and magical things in 2017. I am so grateful to have been able to spend my year creating content to share with you. It’s an honor to bring these ideas to life to help inspire your celebrations and your holiday season. Don’t forget that for more recipes, tips and entertaining ideas, you can follow Virtuoso on Facebook! With that, I’ll see you in 2017. Happy New Year!

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

How to Make an Epic New Year's Day Bloody Mary Bar | Entertaining tips, party ideas, party recipes and more from @cydconverse

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[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. For more recipes, tips and entertaining ideas, follow Virtuoso on Facebook!

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Gingerbread White Russian

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

For me a white Russian is a special treat. They aren’t something I drink often, but for some reason they seem particularly appropriate as a Christmas cocktail to me. A couple of years ago I made these salted caramel white Russians that were a hit so this year I wanted to play on the classic recipe again, this time with a gingerbread white Russian! This recipe is seriously crazy good. It’s the combination of all the parts like the chocolate vodka, the good homemade Irish cream, the ground ginger, the molasses and the big dollup of whipped cream that make it all come together. This weekend while you’re keeping cozy and keeping company with your favorite people, give this a try!

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Gingerbread White Russian
Makes 1 serving

  • 2 oz chocolate vodka
  • 1 oz Irish cream
  • 4 oz milk
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • Pinch ground ginger
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • Gingerbread cookies
  • Whipped cream

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add milk, vodka and Irish cream. Add a generous pinch of ground ginger and ground nutmeg. (If you don’t have nutmeg, cinnamon will also work, but the ginger is a must.) Drizzle in the molasses. Shake until well chilled. Pour into a glass over ice. Garnish with whipped cream, gingerbread crumbles and a gingerbread cookie and enjoy!

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Because it’s the holidays and I’m all about the little details making everything extra special, I’m going to encourage you to make a batch of my homemade Irish cream to use in this white Russian recipe. It is so much better than the standard store bought stuff that it just adds something to this drink. The whipped cream can certainly come out of a can if need be, but it’s so easy to make quickly at home, I kind of feel like, “why not?” But then again, I’m a touch weird when it comes to these things and always have cream on hand for whipping so you do you, friends.

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas from @cydconverse

Gingerbread White Russian Recipe | Cocktail recipes, Christmas cocktails, entertaining tips and party ideas 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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DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments

DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments | Christmas craft ideas, homemade ornaments, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

I’ve mentioned before that I love crafting this time of year more than other. Maybe it’s the excuse to go all out with gold leaf and confetti and glitter? That may very well have a little or a lot to do with it, admittedly. Specifically, creating really pretty homemade ornaments feels like it’s becoming a bit of an obsession. The painted gold leaf ornaments I made last year are some of my favorite ornaments on our tree and, coincidentally, the tutorial is one of the most popular posts I’ve shared in the last 8+ years of blogging! These gold leaf star ornaments from last week are also proving to be a hit. So, obviously you guys love some pretty ornaments, too. Consider these glitter confetti ornaments 2016’s answer to the gold leaf ornaments that set the world on fire. I wanted to make something just as easy, just as beautiful and hopefully just as fun for you to replicate. So let’s hope to it, shall we? These are quick and easy to make, and would be a great project for kids to help with, too!

DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments | Christmas craft ideas, homemade ornaments, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments | Christmas craft ideas, homemade ornaments, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments | Christmas craft ideas, homemade ornaments, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

Supplies

  • Clear glass or plastic ornaments
  • Metallic confetti
  • Large glitter in assorted sizes/colors
  • Ribbon or twine
  • Spray adhesive
  • Glossy spray sealer

DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments | Christmas craft ideas, homemade ornaments, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments | Christmas craft ideas, homemade ornaments, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments | Christmas craft ideas, homemade ornaments, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

I found this super pretty jumbo glitter at Michaels and picked out a variety of colors and sizes that I thought looked beautiful together. Once home, I mixed some of each in a mixing bowl and then tossed in some metallic confetti that I’d also picked up at Michaels. Using a lemonade spoon I carefully spooned the mixture into each ornament until they were roughly 1/3 full. If you have a small funnel it will be even easier!

DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments | Christmas craft ideas, homemade ornaments, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments | Christmas craft ideas, homemade ornaments, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

For the next step you’ll want to work in a well ventilated area (outdoors is best) and thoroughly protect your work area with newspaper or craft paper. Then use your spray glue to give the ornament a thin, light coat of adhesive. I wanted my glitter concentrated at the top of the ornament, so I applied the spray glue from the top down, intentionally making sure not to coat the entire bulb. Then it’s time to shake on the glitter! I shook glitter all over the ornament, gently shook over the excess, then repeated the steps. With the second coat of glitter I used my fingers to press it more firmly against the adhesive. Once you achieve the look you like, finish up with a quick coat of clear, glossy spray sealer to help lock the glitter into place and allow everything to dry for at least a few hours or overnight.

DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments | Christmas craft ideas, homemade ornaments, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments | Christmas craft ideas, homemade ornaments, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments | Christmas craft ideas, homemade ornaments, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

To top everything off, use a bit of pretty ribbon or twine to create a loop and a bow for hanging your ornaments. Or you can skip this part entirely and use traditional ornament hangers. It’s completely up to whatever look you prefer. And that’s it! If you love these ornaments, be sure to check out this pretty DIY glitter vase, which uses a similar technique. And don’t forget! If you give these ornaments or any of my other craft projects or recipes a try, share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #thesweetestholidays so I can take a look and leave you a little love!

DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments | Christmas craft ideas, homemade ornaments, Christmas recipes and more from @cydconverse

DIY Glitter Confetti Ornaments | Christmas craft ideas, homemade ornaments, Christmas recipes 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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