Saturday, October 28, 2017

Delicious Fall Cheesecake Dips - with Greet & Gather

Happy Saturday friends! Nothing goes better with Fall Saturdays than college football, friends & some delicious food! Today I will be sharing two cheesecake dip recipes that you are for sure going to want to try, along with a chilled sparking cider recipe, all of which I have beautifully displayed using the products that I received from my GREET & GATHER October box.


If you have never heard of GREET & GATHER, they are an entertaining subscription box that contains 4-6 home decor, kitchen, dining items and accessories that differ in theme and contents each month. The theme of each month is based around the holidays and events in that month.


Their October box theme was SLATE & STONE, which included items such as:

- a set of 6 glacier rock cooling stones
- set of 4 slate coasters
- set of 4 ceramic cheese markers
- set of 2 brass spreading knives
- and 1 marble cheese board
The box also came with 2 recipe cards
- one for a brown sugar bourbon
- and another for baked brie bites

All of this for just $39.99 delivered to your door!
(The contents you receive inside the box are an $85 value)
But... just for my followers, GREET & GATHER is offering 10% off
using the code SIMPLYCIANI at checkout.
(this goes for both the monthly box and 3 to 6 month prepaid options)

This month's theme was meant for an evening of cheese tasting & whiskey,
but all of the items in this box work for so much more than that!

We are not huge cheese tasters nor do we drink alcohol in our home, so I took creative liberty when planning out what to feature when sharing this box with you all.
What I came up with was three delicious recipes that are sure to make your friends and family's mouths water! 


PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE DIP

Ingredients:
8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (canned is fine)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tbsp brown sugar, packed

Instructions:
Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and beat until smooth. 
Place into desired serving container, and sprinkle brown sugar on top for presentation.





CARAMEL CHEESECAKE DIP

Ingredients:
8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese
3 tbsp caramel syrup
1 tbsp shaved chocolate

Instructions:
Combine cream cheese and 2 tbsp of caramel syrup and beat until mixed well.
Place into desired serving container and top with caramel drizzle and shaved chocolate. 








CHILLED SPARKLING APPLE CIDER

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Sparking Apple cider
1/2 cup ginger ale 
1/4 cup thinly spiced apples
1 whole cinnamon stick

Instructions:
Combine ingredients together in a chilled glass and serve! 
Keep cider and ginger ale chilled until ready to mix.



Greet and Gather not only delivers a unique subscription box option, but also delivers high quality products! The marble cheese board is the real deal and is heavy! The slate coasters, the same. And the brass hand stamped spreaders are not only beautiful but also have a nice weight to them. All items that you receive from Greet and Gather are sure to not disappoint, whether you are receiving the October box or one in the future. Greet and Gather curates only the best and for an amazing price. 

Here is how I styled my tasting party using the products along with a marble cutting board from Home Goods, ceramic pots from Michaels and glass mugs from TJMaxx. The small ceramic pumpkins are a Target dollar spot find and the pumpkin centerpiece you can learn how to make by clicking HERE























I hope that you have enjoyed and been inspired! Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

My Story Of Loss And Healing


Today is 
PREGNANCY AND INFANT LOSS AWARENESS DAY

I am proud to share my story of loss, pain and my rainbow after the storm. We tried for nearly 3 years to give my daughter a sibling. After complications from her birth, I was left with many unanswered questions and a "broken" body. Doctor after Doctor, 7 different ones to be exact, not one had a solution. Finally, after a move across the country due to my husband being in the Marine Corps, I crossed paths with a doctor that would change everything for me, in more than one way. He finally had the solutions and answers that none before him had. He helped mend my "broken" body through a surgery then fertility medication. Then, came the 2 week wait... And anyone whom has ever dealt with infertility or actively has tried to conceive, knows that 2 week wait is unbearable! It was 10 days after ovulation and I just couldn't wait anymore... I peed on a stick. In that 60 seconds, I think I felt every single emotion you could feel. Then, I looked, I saw the slightest faint pink second line.. Was I? No, really? No. Could I be?! I peed on another an hour later, compared the two, held it up to the light, posted pics on my infertility Facebook groups asking the annoying question, "Do you see it?". The next day, I took another and that second pink line that I was going nuts over, stressing over, it was even darker! I was! I was! This miracle baby that I had wanted for so long was really happening!!! I wanted to scream from the rooftops! Little did I know, that little miracle baby, I would never come to meet, never get to hold in my arms or kiss their sweet forehead. 

 10 weeks. 10 weeks that little life grew inside of me. To some, that may seem like nothing. How in just 10 weeks could you become attached to something/ someone you never even met? Surely that loss couldn't hurt as bad as losing someone living. I can't compare my experience to anyone who has lost a living child, and never will claim that my loss hurt similar to theirs, because loss for everyone is completely different. In those 10 weeks I grew to love a child that I had longed for, wished for, went through physical pain just to bring into my life. I started dreaming of decorating a nursery, began researching cloth diapers, and double strollers. I began planning a life with 2 children. We already had names picked out for both a boy and a girl. This baby was loved and wanted before he/she was ever formed. 

At about 5 weeks I went in to have my first ultrasound. This is not typical of most OB patients because at that stage there is not much to see, but because I was an infertility patient and was on medication before becoming pregnant they wanted to check how many of the follicles I had produced actually took, and I had produced 4 follicles before conceiving! So.. to say I was a little scared and excited at the same time is an understatement. The ultrasound showed one tiny babe growing, no heartbeat yet, but that was completely normal. We were sent home with a photo of our newest addition and would be back again at the doctor in another 2 weeks to hopefully see and hear that tiny heartbeat! 

2 weeks later I was back in the ultrasound room, feeling great, ready to see this tiny life growing inside of me and hear that sweet little galloping sound. In that 2 week wait, I never once worried, I felt like, we had overcome so many hurdles to get here I thought nothing could go wrong. And little did I know, God had a much bigger plan in store. The look on the ultrasound tech's face was the first sign, her silence was another. I asked "is everything okay?" She didn't answer. Just more moving around of the stick and clicking of the keyboard. Then she said "let me get your doctor." I knew that couldn't be good. I laid there, trying to prepare myself. He came in. Looked at the screen the same way she did, then said, "We see the fetal pole, and there is flickering there, so there is a heartbeat, but it's not able to be heard yet." I was relieved! But if there was a heartbeat, why did she have to go and bring him in? He then continued, "This can be completely normal at this stage early in pregnancy and your baby's heart may just be delayed in starting. So let's have you come back one week from today and check again." I thought to myself, everything will be fine, he didn't seem too worried. It is early, so this is normal.

One week later, and back in the same room again. This time, my husband by my side. We held hands as the ultrasound began and prayed we would finally hear that little heart beating away. Again, silence. My doctor returned and said the same words he said the week before. He explained that our baby's heart was weak, and from his experience that our baby wouldn't survive, but at this point the heart was still "flickering" so he didn't want to do anything yet. He wanted to continue closely monitoring me and take it week by week. I was devastated. My world shattered all in that moment. How could this be happening? Not me. Not us. I went home that night and prayed harder than I have ever prayed, asking God to strengthen my baby's heart, to let this baby live and grow inside of me.

Another week went by and I headed back to the doctor, this time, sitting in a room of pregnant women and newborn babies, not even knowing if my baby's heart was beating. A woman next to me asked how far along I was, I didn't know how to answer. I told her, "9 weeks." She said, "Oh I remember early in my pregnancy, it's such an exciting time! Hopefully you aren't too tired! I'm due in 2 weeks, can't wait for him to finally be here!" I felt like I got socked in the gut. I wanted to be excited, I wanted to feel tired and nauseous, but I felt not one of those things. They called my name and I headed back to my usual table, laid back and prayed. After 3 minutes (which felt like a lifetime), the doctor came in and said "how are we doing today?" How do you even answer that? The ultrasound began and both the tech and my doctor started at the screen and pointed yet again... No noise. Just the clicking of the keyboard. Then, again.. The same answers. Baby's heartbeat was still there but not strong enough. Again, I was sent home to wait.

The next week though, everything changed. There would be no more waiting, my baby's heart had stopped. Nothing was there. This time I was sent home for good and was given a surgery date for 2 days later. I walked into a waiting room full of pregnant women with bellies of all sizes and at that moment felt completely broken as I carried a lifeless fetus inside of me. I was pregnant but not pregnant all at the same time. 

I went home that night and felt numb, yet could not stop hysterically crying. I turned to God, and questioned why I would be given this gift, just for it to be taken away so fast? I found a verse, Joel 2:25 - God can restore what is broken and change it into something amazing. all you need is faith. That verse alone restored my faith. Made me see that he took my sweet baby because he/she was broken and needed to make them whole. I just had to have faith in his plan. 

The next 2 days were difficult. Trying to process it all. Then surgery day came. I knew this was my last moment with my baby with me.  My mom had passed away while I was pregnant with my first child, so she never got to see me become a mother or meet her grandchild. I asked and prayed that the Lord place this baby in my Mother's arms, let her raise my baby, rock them, kiss them, until we would be reunited again. I came out of surgery and knew where my baby was and was whole in heaven. 

3 weeks later at my follow up appointment, we received the results of the fetal testing that my doctor suggested we did just to be on the cautionary side due to my medial history after I had my first baby. In those results we found two things, one, our baby was a BOY. They were able to test the chromosomes and determine that early on the gender of the fetus. Second, our baby had triple the amount chromosomes, one from the mother and two from the father. I didn't even understand what that meant. My doctor explained that I had what is called a Molar Pregnancy or Partial Molar Pregnancy in my case, where the fetus forms, but one egg was miraculously fertilized by two sperm at the same exact time. In partial molar pregnancies there is no way for the fetus to develop normally nor survive in the womb past 20 weeks at most. Lastly, he added that this was not just the case of why we lost our baby, but my uterus became a harbor for pre-cancerous cells and I needed to have weekly blood work done until my HCG levels reached below zero. If the levels didn't go down on their own, I would need to have chemotherapy. Try to swallow that in all one appointment! 

Good news is that for me, after 7 weeks of weekly blood draws my levels reached zero. I continued draws for another month after to insure they stayed at zero or below before being cleared. Finding the news of the gender of our baby after he was already gone was tough. I wanted to connect with him, now knowing what life was supposed to be like with him in it. As I stated before, we had both a boy and a girl name picked, but our boy name just didn't fit this baby, his story, our journey. I went to bed one night and dreamed of a river, water flowing over the rocks, calm in certain places and rough in others. I knew that was the perfect name for this baby whom I never got to meet. My journey with him was peaceful and trying all at the same time. We rested on River James, James being after my grandfather's middle name who is also in heaven. 

This necklace made by Rachelle Isms means more to me than any other piece of jewelry I own, other than my wedding band of course. It holds my two babies (at the time) and the verse that got me through it all, and continues to. And little did I know that that storm would lead to the most beautiful rainbow... 

Once cleared to try again, we did. I wasn't giving up. I was scared with every ounce of my being, but I knew that nothing good could happen unless you continue to push forward. With a little help from fertility medication and God, our third little miracle came to be and Emmalyn Faith was placed into my arms. Faith fit her perfectly, because without faith, she would have never came to be. 

I may have never held my son in my hands, but I will forever carry him in my heart. 


Saturday, October 14, 2017

DIY Painted Shiplap Tutorial


One Word: SHIPLAP

It's taken the nation by storm. It's been around much longer than Joanna Gaines, but she introduced it to the millions of Fixer Upper addicts and we ALL got hooked. How is it, that by just adding those perfectly spaced horizontal boards to any room makes it 1000 times better?

There are now tons, and I mean TONS of ways out there to get the look of shiplap, the real tongue and groove boards, the fake stuff (which is just plywood ripped into boards), the wallpaper, all of which are great! But... while I am a shiplap lover myself, I have to question... when will this "shiplap fad fade?". When will shiplap become the salmon colored carpet and oak cabinets of the 90's? Or the dark wood paneling of the 80's?  Granted, shiplap is classic. You really cant go wrong with shiplap. But, when you get into to gluing and nailing boards to your drywall, you are kind of committed at that point. You're in it for the long haul. What of you are a renter (like I am) and long to add some character to your home? Or what if spending all of that money on wood or wallpaper just isn't an option? Well, I have a solution to ALL of those problems.

Ready for it?
PAINTED SHIPLAP

Yes, painted. All you need is paint. No damage to your drywall, no spending $300+ on wood and supplies (not to mention tools). Just paint. And when you decide 5 years from now that the "shiplap look" is a little too "farmhouse-y" for you, just paint back over it!

Did I mention that it looks oh so real and you can't even tell it's NOT the real thing? 
Yes, even from a foot away it looks like REAL shiplap. Okay, so enough of me trying to sell you on why this version of shiplap is so much better, lets get down to how to create your own shiplap wall.



WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

- Paint: I used Sherwin Williams - White Batten
[Bought at Lowes]
- Paint Brush
- Paint Roller + Roller Brush
- Paint Tray + Liner
- Painter's Tape: I used the 3M brand
- Tape Measure
- Pencil
- Level
- Two pieces of wood trim (1x1)
- Chalk Paint + Small Brush




HOW TO:

1. Start by painting your wall. 
For mine, I used 3 coats since I was covering a darker colored wall and wanted to be sure I had enough coverage. White paint always takes more coats than other colors to get an even look.

2. Measure out your "boards". 
The average width of shiplap is approx 6", which is what I measured mine at. You can always adjust to the width you are wanting depending on the look you are going for.




3. Draw out your lines.
Placing your level on the wall, start where you marked out your lines and place the pencil above the level, then draw the length of the level. Continue on moving the level and marking until you have reached the other mark on the opposite wall.




4. Tape it.
Using your painter's tape, place the tape both above and below the pencil line about a nickel thickness apart. Take your time with this step and make sure your tape is straight and that where you start a new piece of tape, that it overlaps evenly.



5. This part is important so listen up!
Before you ever touch those lines with black paint, go back over them with your wall color. This will seal the tape edges and insure that there will be no bleed through from the black paint. You are creating "shiplap" here so you want crisp clean lines! Just to be on the cautionary side, I painted 2 coats of the base wall color and let completely dry before moving onto the next step.



6. Now, for the lines.
I have seen other affordable versions of shiplap include using a sharpie for the lines or just black craft paint. Yes, they both work, but here is why I chose to use chalk paint. When you look at real shiplap, the gap is basically a shadow between the boards. Its not a harsh black line. Therefore, I wanted to replicate that look at much as possible. Annie Sloan - Graphite is not a true black, it has more of a gray tone in it and is matte which I also love. Nothing will scream fake shiplap like a glossy line across your walls. I used a smaller paint brush to apply the paint and did two coats just to be sure I got enough coverage.



7. Time to reveal!
Take off the painters tape while the chalk paint is almost dry. Chalk paint dries fast so you wont have to wait long...And now marvel at those crisp clean lines!


8. Paint and add the wood trim.
Using wood trim, either doing a full room and using it on the corners or doing an accent wall and using them to define the shiplap, the trim adds the finishing touch and makes at appear as real shiplap.




So,what's the final verdict? Does it look like the real thing? I just love how adding the shiplap totally transforms this space. It brings attention to the fireplace and draws your eye upwards. Not to mention, everything just looks better against shiplap.

BEFORE + AFTER:



I hope that this post was helpful in showing you that shiplap and adding character to you home doesn't have to be costly nor permanent. Thanks for reading along!


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