Category Archives: Handmade

A Simple Thankfulness Tree

Simple Thankfulness Tree | A Simple Haven

In light of baby #3’s upcoming arrival, I’ve been planning for Christmas since mid-September–and now I’m nearly through with all of my shopping. Thanksgiving preparations, however, are a different matter.

Thankfully (pun intended…groan), as we were graciously invited to join in some friends’ Thanksgiving in Chicago, my responsibilities are minimal: make an apple pie. And maybe a side.

In the weeks preceding Turkey Day, I also wanted to be cultivating an atmosphere of gratitude in my home. I had plans of checking out books about the Pilgrims and fashioning some sort of gratitude tree out of craft paper and paint.


But come mid-November, I’m still in the library’s reserve queue (apparently everyone else had the Pilgrim idea) and I’m giving up on painting a tree on my pantry door.

Instead, I hopped over to Jones Design Company, downloaded some “thankful” tags, and dug out a branch I’d used in Easter decor. It was already stuck in a pot and ready to go. With fake moss and a large rock (?)


Voilà. A Thankful Tree.


I printed the tags on watercolor paper and grabbed a gold sharpie for everyone to pen their blessings with. Then I remembered that I have a two and four year old and put the sharpie away.

So with a blunt blue colored pencil in her four year old scrawl, Bun wrote that she was thankful for her brother, our new baby, and her new bike. And Christmas.

Buckaroo said he was thankful for Julia and Daddy. (Gratitude for Mommy is assumed, right?)


And after pondering briefly, gratitude welled up in me for three years of Hubs in grad school nearly over, a beautiful fall, and grace upon grace throughout this pregnancy and especially this semester.

I hung up the tags, more aware than before of the richness of our little life together. And that a holiday project need not be an elaborate affair to be meaningful.

PS, If you’re looking to do something similar and are lacking random Easter decor, try a large branch stuck in some floral foam in a small flower pot or a group of sticks in a vase or jar (I love this one).

What are you thankful for right now?




3 Favorite Natural Skin Care Products

3 Fav Skin Care Products | Day2Day Joys

Skin care products and I have a long history. I’ve always struggled with breakouts and have tried just about every oral or topical product suggested by dermatologists.  I’ll get patches of dryness brought on by winter weather or said products.

And as far as cleansers go, my tendency has been to use scrubs or harsh ones that have probably done more harm than help.

I’ve spent way more time and money than I’d like trying to figure out an effective skin care regime–and the results have never been stellar.

Until this year.

Now, this isn’t some complete transformation story. My skin is far from perfect.

But thanks to some dietary changes, a good probiotic, and more natural skincare products, it’s way better than it has been in the past.

And now I have the satisfaction of knowing I’m not putting junk on my face that’s making it worse or loads of chemicals that are getting absorbed into my body.

I’m also spending a modest amount, which feels good too.

So…my top favorite natural skin care products. Check ’em out over at Day2Day Joys today.


Flower and Whale Crib Sheets :: Two Stories and a Tutorial


I originally published this post in January of 2013, but found myself referencing it to make baby #3’s crib sheets. Baby #3 is another boy and will be getting sheets made from this fabric. Fun, huh? I’m pretty much loving all of Teagan White’s art right now.

I’m very visually-oriented. From my day planner to the Kitchen Aid mixer, to where I hang the picture frames–if it’s not just the right design, shade, or placement, I’ll fixate on it until it feels right.

It’s a bit compulsive, really. Or HSP. Or whatever.

Is the result of this neurosis a perfect-looking house? (Snort-laugh) No.

But as far as I have the time/energy/money, I’d rather not just tolerate, but truly enjoy the things I look at daily.

Inspirational Decor

And yet with some items in my home, it’s not just about them being pretty–I’d also like them to be meaningful.  To not just please the eye but also remind me of a truth, a fond memory, or a vision of what might yet come.

Bear with me if you think I’m getting too lofty for a post on baby sheets.

Case in point: the bedding for my kids’ rooms. I’m going to look at it every day. And every night. I’m going to launder it, sometimes multiple times a day depending on who’s potty training and who’s sick and who’s got reflux.

So, I might as well really like these darn sheets. And if they’re somehow encouraging? Even better.

Flower Sheets

For Bun, I was drawn to ones called “garden party;” they were kind of vintage-y and pretty without being too pink.


And  then as I registered for those flower sheets, I got a vision for my sweet unborn daughter. She would be like a garden. Her father and I would plant seeds of truth and words of life in her soul. We’d tend her little life and pray that all of this would cause her to flourish.

I wasn’t planning to get all spiritual over my crib sheets, but there it was. Every time I saw them, I was reminded to pray for our little Bun and for us to be the kind of parents she needed.

Whale Sheets

Then along came baby brother, whom I was sure (ok, hoped) would be another girl–only because I was grappling for some kind of consistency in my life at a time when our future was very uncertain.

But, at 20 weeks pregnant, you know what helped me get over the initial freak-out of having a little guy?

The fabric I found for his bedding.


Yes, it was just the right combo of yellow, grey, pale blue and cream, in quaint patterns of Dutch-looking windmills and whales that made me ok with–even excited about–having a boy.

Call me shallow. But there it is.

Sorry, Buckaroo. We love you dearly. And you are the perfect baby for our family.

Sorry, Buckaroo. We love you dearly. And you are the perfect baby for our family.

Not only were the colors just right, but the whales were a nice touch. I’ve always been fascinated by blue whales. Their massive size (their hearts are the size of cars, people) simply makes me stand in awe of the God who made them.

(Now I’m really tempted to go on about whales for a while, but I’ll resist and leave you with this instead. You’re welcome).

So, my daughter’s bedding prompted a vision for parenting and my son’s reminds me of the glory of creation. Pretty impressive sheets, right?


Now, let’s pick a pretty (and inspirational?) fabric and make some.

Crib Sheet Tutorial

{for a standard size crib mattress, typically about 51 5/8″ x 27 1/4″–for other size sizes, simply measure the length and width and add 16″ to both}


*2 yards of fabric
*80 inches of 1/4 inch elastic
*ruler/measuring tape

1.) Wash fabric, cut out a rectangle that’s 45″ x 68″. (If your fabric is only 44″ that’s ok).


2.) At each corner, measure 8″ squares and cut them out.


whale sheets21

3.) Next, take the two sides of one corner of the sheet and bring right sides together. Pin and sew, using about a 1/4″ seam allowance.

You’re basically making pockets that will go around the corners of the crib mattress. Do this on all four corners of the sheet.

whale sheets

4.) After sewing, serge or zig-zag stitch the seams.

5.) Then, serge (or use a sturdy zig-zag stitch) around the entire edge of the sheet. You can also iron + hem your fabric 1/4″ all the way around to keep the edges from fraying.

(I don’t have a serger and didn’t even have a great zig zag stitch at the time. But, my fabric was too narrow to hem 1/4″ around so I just made do with a simple zig zag on the rough edges. All sides have held up just fine over the course of a year).

See? Really lame zig zag. I think something was wrong with my machine. But it’s held up fine.

See? Really lame zig zag. I think something was wrong with my machine. But it’s held up fine.

6.) Iron about 1/2″ around all edges of the sheet. You’re making the casing for the elastic.

whale sheets331

7.) Sew the casing. I didn’t pin around the whole thing because it takes too long and ironing seemed to keep the fabric in place just fine.

**Remember to leave a couple inches of space to get the elastic in and out. Marking that space with two pins is helpful. Start sewing at one pin and stop at the other**

Sheet Tutorial

8.) Grab the elastic and attach a safety pin to one end. Insert into one opening in the casing and thread it around the entire sheet until it comes out of the other opening.


9.) Take the two ends of the elastic and pin. Sew a zig zag stitch over the length of the overlap.

Sheet Tutorial1

10.) Sew the opening in the casing closed.


11.) Admire your new sheet! And then go wrestle your kid’s mattress/crib bumpers until it’s securely on.

whale sheets221

Easy DIY Citrus Face/Body Scrub

Easy DIY Citrus Face Scrub | A Simple Haven

Though I still default to–and often enjoy–DIYS, over the years I’ve become a little more careful about how I spend my limited time.

So if I tell Hubs about a potential project and he asks how many hours it’s going to take and I give him my (always low-balling) estimate and he raises his eyebrows, I might reconsider.

Is it worth the time and effort? Or would my resources be better spent elsewhere?

When it comes to beauty products, for me, the answers are usually 1.) no and 2.) yes.

In these cases, I’m a buyer, not a maker. Figuring out the right balance of apple cider vinegar and baking soda to successfully do the no-poo method and making my own lotion has always felt more overwhelming than exciting.

But when my favorite body scrub accidentally got filled with bathwater, I got motivated to make my own.

And you know what? It was super easy. I love it and use it several times a week.

Crazy Easy DIY Face/Body Scrub

:: Ingredients* ::

*About 1/4 cup jojoba oil (I use this kind, from Vitacost. Use this link and get $10 off your order!)

*2T fine-ground Celtic sea salt**

*A few drops of lemon essential oil

*A small glass jar (old jelly jar, etc.)

:: How to Make It ::

Pour the jojoba oil into the jar. Add the salt and the lemon oil.

(The scent of the lemon oil is one reason why I love this stuff, but you could also use lavender or another favorite oil).

Stir to combine. You’re done!

:: How to Use It ::

Apply a small amount to damp skin and gently massage. Then rise with warm water and pat dry.

If I’m applying it to my face, I’ll generally use a warm, wet washcloth (these are my favorite) to help remove the excess oil. But jojoba oil is so similar to our skin’s natural oils that even if I don’t remove it all, it leaves more of a healthy glow than a greasy mess.  (P.S., this is why I don’t use olive or coconut oil in the recipe).

*You could make it in larger batches if needed, but as I mostly use it on my face (and use a small amount at a time), these amounts work best for me.

**Finely ground is what you want for use on your face. If you’ve only got course on hand, I’d only use it on your body.

Do you find it worth your time to make any beauty products? Have any easy favorites? If so, please share! 🙂

*This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting ASH!



Simple Party Decor :: Fabric Scrap Garland

Fabric Scrap Garland| A Simple Haven

I don’t do obvious themes at parties. Or much decor.

Call me a party minimalist, HSP (most pre-made/Disney character/super-flashy themes visually overwhelm me), or just picky, but the closest I ever come to a theme is a color scheme.

Or something made up like “a woodsy-winter theme” or “a spring-garden-tea-party-with-pinata.”

Bun’s first birthday had no apparent theme besides pink, green, and scraps of fabric. For other gatherings, my go-to decor item is mason jars filled with flowers, candles, bits of nature–and maybe trimmed with a scrap of burlap.

Apparently, scraps of fabric is my thing.

This year for Bun’s fourth birthday, Grammie was in town, so I utilized the extra hands and did more decor than usual.

While I can’t recommend making paper medallions to anyone seeking a fun and relaxing afternoon, the fabric scrap garland was easy, inexpensive, and ended up fluffy and pretty.

Scrap Fabric Garland

:: Materials ::

  • Twine
  • Scraps of different fabrics
  • Ribbon, if desired
  • Scissors
  • A favorite beverage

:: How To ::

1.) Cut/tear (I prefer cutting a little, then tearing the rest, to give a nice raw edge) the fabric into 6-8″ strips, about 1-2″ wide. You’ll want a good sized pile of each type of fabric. I used about six different prints, plus some bits of burlap and ribbon.

fabric garland2

fabric garland3

2.) Cut a piece of twine to the desired length. Mine was about 5 feet long.

3.) Knot the scraps of fabric onto the twine, alternating types of fabric as you go. Tie in some shiny or sparkly ribbon every now and then for some added texture. Be sure to leave several inches of twine free of fabric on each end so you can tie it up.

fabric garland1

4.) Sip favorite beverage. Possibly turn on a BBC show.

5.) Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the garland is complete. (This thing isn’t hard, but it can take a little while).

fabric garland.13

fabric garland.11

Do you have celebration decor go-tos?

Simple Party Favors for Kids

Simple Party Favors for Kids | A Simple Haven

When I was 12, one of my favorite books was an abridged copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette.  No kidding.

When I went to college, I took along the weighty full-length version.

Did I think I was equipping myself to face a new variety of social situations? If so, I probably chose poorly: to my knowledge, Ms. Post remains silent on matters of AOL’s IM, fraternity formals, and being an RA.

I also don’t know what she says about children’s birthday party favors. My guess is she’d be all for them and would probably set the bar way higher than me. Sorry, Emily.

My criteria are that they be enjoyed by kids, unannoying to parents, and reasonably priced. In a pinch, my default is homemade cookies in pretty packaging.

I think I just made up “unannoying,” but can I get an amen from parents everywhere?

But when I’m not in default mode, here are some other ideas I’ve used or would use at our next party.

Simple Kids’ Party Favors

Homemade Play-dough

Make it a fun color, add some glitter, and put it in a pretty glass jar. Maybe hold off on the glass if it’s a toddler party. I’m still recovering from the shattered mason jar incident of last week.

We always seem to have little jars laying around, but you could also use a cellophane bag tied up with a ribbon or twine.


Flower Seeds

We did this for Bun’s recent party. Each little guest got packets of Zinnias, which tend to do well in our neck of the woods.


Who doesn’t like stickers? Ok, if they end up on the walls or furniture, I’ll raise my hand to that. Otherwise, they may keep their place as a beloved part of my daughter’s daily life.

neon crayons


Get the fun glittery or neon kind and maybe throw in a little notebook and you’re set.

A Picture With the Birthday Boy/Girl

I had aspirations of doing this at Bun’s party. Get out the camera and have the birthday kid pose with each friend. Print pics and send them along with thank you notes.

Ornament party favor | A Simple Haven

Christmas Ornaments

Perhaps only applicable at November or December parties, but meets the criteria nonetheless. For our Christmas baby’s first birthday, I hand-sewed ornaments and embroidered the first letter of each guest’s last name.

Don’t worry, there were only five guests. And about a season’s worth of Downton Abbey to keep me company while I crafted.

More Girly Ideas: hair clips (via Etsy? Or handmade) // fairy wings (dollar store) // princess/fairy crowns (dollar store) // ribbon wands

Other Ideas: slipper socks // glow sticks

What are your favorite party favor ideas?

And, you can still enter to win a copy of The Nester’s new book, The Nesting Place! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This giveaway ends on April 27 at 11:59pm CST. One winner will be chosen using Rafflecopter and will be notified by email. The winner will have 48 hours to respond with their contact information; if they do not respond a new winner will be chosen. Must be at least 18 and live in the U.S./Canada to enter.

 *This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting ASH!

An Upcycled Easter Basket

Upcycled Easter Basket | A Simple Haven

Easter is a mysterious holiday. I’ve read explanations of its annual movement through the calendar, but always get lost amongst the spring equinoxes, new moons, and Passovers–which is unsurprising, as I seem to lose I.Q. points with each successive child I birth.

And then there’s the eggs and bunnies. I’ve researched the history of these only a little, but still can’t seem to make a reasonable connection between clandestine colored eggs, baskets of chocolate rabbits, and Jesus is Risen.

Here, I’m not sure it’s a matter of I.Q. points.

In any case, the basket is where we’ll focus our attention today.

My Easter basket quandary began last year, when I was torn between not wanting the sacred holiday to be overrun by foil-wrapped candy rabbits and simply wanting to continue a beloved childhood tradition.

Hubs and I concluded that since we were in charge of creating and explaining our family traditions, we could include Easter baskets in the celebrations while still being intentional to focus on the historical truths of Easter.

But, being minimalist-ish, I still didn’t want to spend loads of time or money on Easter baskets for the littles. So this year I set the following parameters:

I would only put in the baskets what I could find around the house.

Fun game, right?

Actually, I enjoyed the challenge.  And when my hunt was over, my findings fell into three main categories.

Upcycled Easter Basket | A Simple Haven

How to Fill an {Upcycled} Easter Basket

1.) Your Own Childhood Toys

I dug through boxes and found a few items in good condition that I thought my kids might enjoy. For the Bun, I found a baby carrier and a Brambly Hedge lunch box.

I also uncovered a gigantic stuffed rabbit, but Bun was watching and declared it to be her new favorite before I could wrestle it from her grip and throw it in the basket. We always name her animals and dolls, but I can’t think of anything to call this monstrosity besides “Big Bunny.” It. is. ginormous.

2.) Objects from the Kitchen and Pantry.

I’ve been lamenting Bun’s bare play-kitchen pantry for months. So, I started saving empty seasoning containers with which to stock her shelves. They’re more realistic than the plastic ones you can buy and baby brother will enjoy taking the lids off.

Besides, nothing says “He is risen!” like a can of Trader Joe’s aluminum-free baking powder.

Now, if you think I’m lame for giving my kid empty salt, sprinkles, and baking powder containers as presents, consider how many times you’ve questioned why you buy toys when all your kids want is wooden spoons and a pot.

They are more easily satisfied than we often imagine.

3.) Simple Handmade Gifts

Using fabric and elastic I had on hand, I whipped up a new ruffled headband for the Bun. If you have even a small stash of fabric, you could also appliqué a t-shirt or onesie, make a fabric rosette pin or headband, or sew a zippered pouch.

Shoot, you could even make a stuffed animal if you had some batting laying around (or you could bend the rules and head to Hobby Lobby). This site has a crazy amount of free patterns for every animal imaginable.

If my daughter’s crib wasn’t already overrun with “friends,” I’d make her this one.

Now to go fill a basket for Buckaroo.

Will you be making Easter baskets this year?

*This post originally appeared here at ASH last year, but as I’ll be upcycling Easter baskets again this year, it seemed like a good time to dig it out. 🙂

Happy Easter! He is Risen!

On Barbies and Using What You Have

On Barbies and Using What You Have | A Simple HavenPhoto by

I have a new theory on Barbies: however you played with Barbies indicates much about your personality today.

I developed this theory after listening to a podcast. One of the bloggers interviewed loved decorating her Barbie house and rearranging Barbie furniture; she couldn’t be bothered to dress Barbie herself. She now writes about making your home beautiful.

The other blogger was all about Barbie’s relationship drama; she would create and analyze intricate webs of attachment between the various dolls. Now, she shares beautifully written personal stories and insights into life and relationships.

Barbie Slept on 2x4s

And me?

My homemade “Barbie apartment” consisted of scrap wood from my Dad’s wood shop stacked on an old table.  My sister and I called it an apartment because we had the good sense to know it was no Barbie mansion. Continue reading