Trying to Simplify

LIttle Bird Nest | Trying to Simplify

Garrett and I are in the process of having a new house built for us, and I am beyond excited. Our current house has cheap tan carpet and beige walls– I can’t wait for bright white walls and dark wood-look tile floors. More importantly, I can’t wait for a fresh start.

Right now our projected move-in date is estimated for sometime in October, so we just have to wait. The anticipation is wonderful– I browse Pinterest before bed and dream of ways I’ll make the house into a home. Garrett and I talk about landscaping ideas over dinner. It’s kind of like waiting for a new baby– you have so many hopes and dreams and expectations. And in reality, I hope this house can be a member of our family too. I hope it can grow old along with us, and that we become more attached to it with age.

I’m trying so hard not to let the anticipation of the new house make me resent our current house. We bought the house we’re living in now to be a starter home. We never expected to be in it that long, so we didn’t paint any walls or do anything major, except for a much-needed kitchen update. But even then, we went cheap– only what was needed to make it nice and sellable.

I look around me at the things in our house, and I imagine them in the new house, and I get this urge to just get rid of everything. Well not everything, but I want to purge. To get down to the essentials. The less we have, the less we have to pack, right?

With little kids, it’s hard to do any hardcore decluttering while they’re around. So that leaves me one day a week when they’re at daycare to fill boxes to give away and fill the garbage and recycling with stuff that just has to go. So that’s what I’m doing today. Trying to simplify.

It’s like I’m in a reverse nesting phase for this house-baby that we’re expecting. And I’m embracing it.

P.S. The picture on the dresser is from Brooke Smart’s “Bringing Up Baby” collection. Check her out– she’s amazing!

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William Turns Two

We celebrated William’s second birthday on Sunday. For his first birthday a year ago, we had, as many parents do, sent out invitations to our friends and hosted a party at our house which included a cake smash and lots of new toys. I think first birthdays are more for the parents than anyone else– a celebration of making it through the first year with a baby and still having friends and enough sanity left to host a decent party… not to mention a good excuse to finally clean your house after a year of spit-up on the couch and other baby messes.

Will’s second birthday party was, in contrast, pretty low-key. I look at toddler birthdays as opportunities to practice my cake making and party decorating skills before William starts to want to invite friends to his birthday parties. I’m pretty happy with the way Sunday turned out. It’s nothing you would see going viral on Pinterest, but it was colorful and bright and happy.

I had been pretty sick the day before, so Will had spent the night with Garrett’s parents. When he came in the door on Sunday, the first thing he saw was the little pile of presents. So that’s what we did first. (Actually the first thing he saw was the bright colored tissue paper garlands hanging from the ceilings all throughout the common areas of the house, which he called “birthday rainbow”.)

William's 2nd birthdayChristmas wrapping paper. It’s what we had.

My sister sent this epic fort that even has it’s own little ball pit. She and I both agree that it would’ve been awesome to have something like this when we were kids. Will loved it, the cat loved it, the dog would too if we let her, and Garrett and I love that it folds up completely flat and comes with storage containers!

William's 2nd birthdayWilliam's 2nd birthdayGarrett and I gave him a sturdy little cover for the iPad. More and more lately, Will has become the main user of our tablet, so we figured it was time to case it in something a bit more rugged and toddler-friendly. This one seemed to fit the bill. We also rearranged the apps so that all of his are right up front on the first screen and the “grown-up” apps are on subsequent screens. When he opened this one, the birthday celebrations nearly came to a halt as he suddenly decided he’d rather watch Paw Patrol than have a birthday.

Will seemed to absolutely love every gift that he got, but certainly the showstopper gift of the day was the balance bike from Garrett’s parents.

William's 2nd birthday William's 2nd birthdayAfter presents, it was time for lunch and then, of course, CAKE!! I made a chocolate cake with cream cheese filling (I dyed it orange to make it look something like lava) and dark chocolate ganache on top, and then topped it with a couple of candles and a toy dinosaur.

William's 2nd birthdayThe Christmas wrapping paper made another appearance, this time in the form of a hastily made tiny dinosaur birthday hat– though you really can’t tell.

William's 2nd birthdayWilliam's 2nd birthdayAfter cake, we took Will outside to take his new bike for a spin. At first he really struggled with the whole concept of sitting on the seat and just kind of walked with it between his legs. He’s starting to get the hang of it, though, and I’m confident he’ll be cruising on that thing in no time.

William's 2nd birthday William's 2nd birthday William's 2nd birthdayAfter that, Will was more than ready for a nap, so that pretty much concluded the festivities.

Now that William is two, I’m trying to counteract some of the terrible-ness with “You’re two now, which means you’re not a baby– you’re a boy so…..” sit at the table, eat what mom and dad eat, pretty much do whatever we say, etc. Hah. We’ll see how it goes.

A Favorite Family Recipe: Baked Sweet Potatoes with Coconut

I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend! Just in case you haven’t already had your fill of holiday food, I’ve decided to share one of my all-time favorite family recipes.

Recipe: Baked Sweet Potatoes With Coconut

I have no intention of turning this into a food blog– I just don’t have the kitchen skills to handle that. But I do believe in sharing favorite recipes. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to create that perfect taste from a recipe that someone took with them to the grave. And that’s why I was thrilled when my Aunt Jeanie gave me permission to share this amazing recipe here on my blog. Because good food should be shared!

But first, a little Thanksgiving recap. Garrett and Will and I spent the day with Garrett’s family. When we left our home in Salt Lake, it was pretty mild outside. Chilly, but pleasant and sunny, and not a single snowflake on the ground. When we got to Garrett’s parents’ house 40 minutes north of us, this is what it looked like:

Cox Family Thanksgiving 2015

Helloooo, winter! Personally, I love snow. I love cold white winters, so I didn’t mind this at all. But we didn’t come super prepared. Neither Garrett nor I had proper shoes for traipsing through snow, and Will definitely wasn’t equipped to play in the snow. All he had on were canvas sneakers which immediately got soaked, and although I was working on knitting a pair of mittens for him, only one was complete, so his hands froze. He did have a hat, though, which he refused to wear. I felt terrible. Will’s initial excitement over the snow quickly turned to tears and we ended up heading inside for some warm cuddles and by the fire while his pants, socks, and shoes dried out and his hands and feet thawed. Not one of my finest moments in parenting.

Cox Family Thanksgiving 2015

Garrett and I went shopping in the evening to catch some of the late-night sales while everyone else slept off their food comas, and we made sure to purchase a good pair of snow boots for Will which he has insisted on wearing around the house ever since. I also finished knitting that pair of mittens this weekend, so hopefully we won’t have any repeats of Thursday any time soon.

Okay, so back to the sweet potatoes. These are seriously soooo easy to make and soooo good. And if you ever had a craving for a sweet potato bake that’s not made with brown sugar, pecans, or marshmallows, this one is for you.

Cox Family Thanksgiving 2015

Check out that baby bump hanging over the counter! I have to be super careful when cooking these days so I don’t burn it on the stove!

This recipe has become my go-to recipe for any holiday season gatherings, whether they be for family or church or potlucks, or whatever. Since it always goes so fast, I like to cook enough sweet potatoes for 2 recipes (about 6 cups, so 5 to 6 sweet potatoes, depending on their size). That way I can make a second batch just for me and the immediate family once the first one has been devoured. You can save yourself a lot of prep time on the day you want to make these by baking the sweet potatoes a day or two ahead of time, mashing and preportioning them into 3 cups, and storing them in the fridge or freezer until needed.

Baked Sweet Potatoes With Coconut

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Coconut

(vegetarian, gluten free)

Prep time: 10 minutes (+ 1 hour if you start with uncooked sweet potatoes)
Bake time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hr, 10 min
Servings: 8

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (lumpy is okay)
2 cups sugar
1/2 pound butter, softened or melted
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup shredded coconut*
5 eggs

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Using an electric mixer or crank beater, beat the first 3 ingredients together until the butter and sugar are completely mixed in with the potatoes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined. Pour into a 3 quart baking dish. Bake uncovered at 350° for about 1 hour, or until the edges are slightly browned and the center is set. And that’s it! So easy!

*I always use sweetened shredded coconut, because it’s cheap and easy to find. But feel free to use the unsweetened stuff, especially if you’re looking for ways to cut back on sugar a little. This dish is already very sweet.

 

So there you have it– a new, slightly different recipe to sweeten up your holiday meals. If you try it, let me know what you think in the comments below!