Category Archives: Haven

A Playlist for Everything :: Holiday Edition

Christmas Favorites Playlist | A Simple Haven

I ran this post last year, but they’re pretty much still my favorites.

You may not have a playlist for sweeping the kitchen or afternoon dance parties with toddlers, but I’m guessing you’ve got a favorite holiday playlist.

While I enjoy the classics as much as the next person, most of my favorite Christmas tunes are a little less traditional. They get air time beginning at Thanksgiving (though this year, I fudged a little) and I enjoy them into the new year.

A Christmas Playlist

Little Town by Over the Rhine :: I once saw their Christmas concert in a lovely old theater in Cincinnati.  Bill Mallonee opened and I got to chat with him afterwards.  Karin Bergquist’s voice was amazing.  I went with two dear friends and wore a sparkly sweater.  It was pretty perfect.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel by  Rosie Thomas :: Thanks a bunch to Brittney for sharing this gem.  Love me some Rosie.

Peace, Peace by Sara Groves :: Her holiday album is so great.

Eternal Gifts by Leigh Nash :: Oh, I could sing these lyrics all year long. So very true.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Sufjan Stevens :: Hubs groans when I play his holiday stuff and mispronounces his name on purpose but I’m a fan.

Angels We Have Heard on High by Chris Tomlin :: Bun’s favorite.  Besides Joy to the World.

Joy to the World by Citizens :: A new find. Toe-tapping fun.  Bun’s other favorite.

O Holy Night by Shawn McDonald :: The lyrics are my favorite ever.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan :: I know, it’s old.  But still a fav.


  • For reading by the fire: Celtic Christmas Pandora station
  • For cooking in the kitchen: Bing Crosby Pandora Station

 What are your favorite holiday tunes?

And, congratulations to Jessica for winning the Lindsay Letters O Holy Night art print giveaway! 🙂

A Recovering Perfectionist Does Christmas


I wrote this post last year, but at 36 weeks pregnant and with a history of early, fast labors, I’m again determined to keep this holiday season simple.

Each year, I enter December with high hopes for a peaceful, simple holiday season focused on the heart of Christmas.

But generally by this time I am, as the editors of Watch for the Light say, “sensing the deeper meanings of the season but grasping at them in vain…[with all] the bustle leaving me drained.”

This year, I’m determined to attend to my heart over the next few weeks—to pay attention to my stress level and motivations and to adjust my attitude or what’s on my plate accordingly.

Yes, there will be tasks to accomplish, events to plan, and more activities than usual.

But I’m holding onto hope that it’s possible to approach all of it with grace–instead of an attitude that makes my kids and husband casualties in the storm of Mommy Trying to Make an Amazing Christmas.

So I’m watching for those moments, those forks in the road where I can decide to plow ahead on the road to perfection or choose to slow down, do less, accept my (and my kids’) limitations, and see beauty in the midst of it all.

Maybe you’re good at choosing the better way.

As a recovering perfectionist, I am not.

So far, the slower but more intentional route has meant making choices like:

Accepting that doing everything on my awesome holiday traditions list is not possible.  Unless I want it to feel like holiday boot-camp.

Involving the kids in the decorating–even though my son will likely threaten his, others’ and the ornaments’ safety.


Delegating some decorating tasks to Hubs and accepting variant outcomes.

Pausing in the midst of tasks to read the Christmas books my kids bring me.

Letting my daughter wear the tree skirt around the house because it’s “such a beautiful dress.”

Tree Skirt1

Choosing not to stress over the fact that my son slept/acted hilariously awful over Thanksgiving break with fam. I must be chilling out as a mom because I’m less apt to profusely apologize for a fussy baby.  Score.

Nothing earth-shattering.  Just small steps toward a slower, less-stressed holiday season.

How is December going for you so far?

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?




Boldness and Food for Company

Boldly Offering Food | A Simple Haven

This is day 9 in a series on Living Boldly. To check out the other posts in the series, go here. Welcome!

Since we’re talking hospitality, we should probably address the single most important aspect of opening your home to others: the snacks.

I’m only slightly exaggerating my view on the importance of snacks. I love food.

My hope in feeding guests is that they feel taken care of. When possible, I like to serve good food that I’ve prepared with love.

I’m pretty sure my love language to others is food and hugs–or other less-invasive forms of physical touch. Like arm pats. But I digress.

My fears?

That people won’t like my food. That I won’t have time/money/energy to make the kind of food I’d like. That people will stop over and my four year old will invite them to lunch when all I have in the fridge is leftovers.

Ok, that last one really happened. But it all turned out just fine.

So the way I see it, boldness in serving food can look one of two ways:

Option #1: Boldly Offering What You’ve Got

You can boldly offer people leftovers, crackers, a glass of water, whatever you have on hand. It’s what you’ve got and there’s no need to apologize for it.

Leftovers can feel like a feast to a college student missing the comforts of home. Sometimes a glass of water is just what a pregnant/nursing friend needs. A simple cup of tea can work wonders on a rough day.

Even though it’s simple fare, you are still considering the needs of others and serving them.

Option #2: Boldly Offering a Feast

On the other end of the spectrum, you can offer your best: that fun new recipe you’ve been wanting to try, a fondue dinner, a fancy dessert you only do on special occasions.

If you’ve got the time/energy/money, it can be so much fun to prepare a special meal to bless others with. And sometimes, you’ve got more of those three things than you think; it’s just a matter of prioritizing.

Obviously, fancy isn’t necessary. But done in love, it can be something really special.

Babette’s Feast

One of my favorite stories lately is Babette’s Feast (I’ve yet to read the book by Isak Dinesen, but you can watch the film here on Amazon Prime).

In summary, a poor refuge named Babette is taken in by two sisters. They live together very simply, but Babette gratefully accepts their hospitality.  Eventually, she comes into a large sum of money and spends the entire amount on an amazing meal (turns out she was formerly a famous chef in France) for the sisters and their friends.

There’s more to the story–there are powerful themes of grace, hospitality, and enjoying and sharing the gifts we’ve been given. But I love both pictures of hospitality: the sisters giving simple fare out of their poverty and Babette giving a feast out of her wealth.

Relatively speaking, we’ll all probably experience seasons of both poverty and wealth. Even if it’s just in terms of time and energy.

But I think we can boldly offer snacks in either.

Thoughts on cooking for company?

And if you’re in need of some good staples for company meals, check out my Cooking (Real Food on a Budget) for Company Series! 🙂

P.S., you might also want to check out my blogging-friend Emily’s series, 31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us. It compliments a series on boldness well :).

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Boldly Saying Yes to Hospitality

Bold Hospitality | A Simple Haven

This is day 8 in a 31 day series on Living Boldly. To check out the other posts, go here. Welcome!

It’s no secret that I love filling my house with guests. I’m never happier than when I have people to feed or someone in our guest room.

But even for me there are times when saying yes to hospitality feels extra bold:

Like when there’s a family of six who may need a place to stay for a few weeks.  Or when I’m in the middle of my first trimester of pregnancy.

Or when Hubs is in the middle of a crazy semester of school and our plate is extra full. When I just haven’t had the time or energy to tidy up the way I’d like.

Or when my cat is making poor choices (use your imagination…or don’t).

All of these have been the case at some point over the last year.

And while I’m a big fan of healthy boundaries, saying necessary no’s and purposeful yes’s (aside: it pains me to write those apostrophes but Lynne Truss assures me they are appropriate), I also want to make room on my calendar for genuine hospitality as much as I’m able.

This Year, I Said Yes

So I said bold yes’s to all of the above.

The results? Everything was just fine.

Better than fine, actually. Every time I say yes to bold hospitality, I gain courage and the blessing of a house full of friends–or friends-to-be.

Hospitality bonus: I find that nothing makes a house feel more like a home than company for dinner.  I’ve uprooted and replanted enough times to be sure of that.

Hope and Fear and Bold Hospitality

I’m hoping that my home is a cozy haven for friends and family, where they feel cared for.

I’ve feared cat messes, sharing space with long-term guests, and not having people’s approval or not meeting their expectations. I can still fear those things.

So for me, bold hospitality looks like saying yes to inviting people into imperfection–and making it about them, not me.

What does bold hospitality look like for you?

P.S., you might also want to check out my blogging-friend Emily’s series, 31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us. It compliments a series on boldness well :).


Boldly Making Progress


This is day 7 in a 31 day series on Living Boldly. To read the other posts, go here. Welcome!

I chose my current home in a whirlwind five day house-hunting trip when I was hugely pregnant. A cross-country move, winter, and baby #2 were coming. I needed a house–quick.

Hubs and I had hoped for a home on a tree-lined street, maybe an older one with some character like the one we’d left in Dallas.

What we ended up with was a newly constructed house in the middle of cornfields, sans trees.

It was clean, nice, and didn’t require any fixer-uppering. Sure, the wall colors/fixtures weren’t exactly what I would have chosen, but they weren’t anything to fuss about.

For our season of life (new baby, new job, Hubs starting grad school), it was perfect.

Making Progress in Hope, Despite Fears

Two and a half years later, I’m still glad we chose the home we did. But that wall color that the builders painted everything? I’m getting a little tired of it.

One of my goals this year was to invest in making our master bedroom more of a pretty retreat and less of a dumping ground for laundry. Painting seemed like a good place to start.

Putting this project in “bold homemaking” terms, what I hoped for was a quiet, restful, pretty spot.

What I feared was making wrong paint choices. Especially because I was going to do…dum-da-dum…an accent wall. In teal. À la Emily of Jones Design Company.

If this isn’t shocking to you, know this: In my home, I do neutrals. I’ve never even flirted with teal.

I also don’t usually love accent walls. And full-on copying someone else’s color scheme? Well that just flies in the face of all my precious individuality. Not to mention that my husband wasn’t totally sold on waking up to a big, fat, teal wall every day.

All of this led me to feel like painting my room was the boldest thing I’d done since sign up for a 2.5 week road trip to Canada with my pregnant belly and small children.

But my mom was in town to help, so we picked up our brushes and voilà!

Boldly Painting a Wall | A Simple Haven

The room is by no means finished, but boldness has scored a major point: I don’t hate the teal (Sherwin Williams’ Deep Sea Dive) and the gray (Sherwin Williams’ Requisite Gray) feels soo much better than the beige.

I’m making some progress toward a room I enjoy.

(I’m also showing you pictures of my unfinished room–not easy for me given my house fears).

Thoughts on bold paint choices?

P.S. You might also want to check out my blogging-friend Emily’s series, 31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us. It compliments a series on boldness well :).


Boldly Purging

31 Days of Living Boldly | A Simple Haven

This is day 6 in a 31-day series on Living Boldly. To check out the other days, go here. Welcome!

One of my hopes for my home is for it to be a restful haven. For me, that means relatively clutter-free.

Sure, with two little ones there will always be toy explosions, creative projects-in-process, and messes. I’ve mostly made peace with that and try to balance letting them make messes with training them in cleaning up.

Emphasis on “mostly” and “try”.

But one easy way to keep the clutter to a minimum is to simply purge what we don’t use.

Admittedly, I am a purger by nature. Married to a “saver.” Which means we get to have great conversations like this:

Me: I’m throwing this away.

Hubs: No! You can’t! That painting [that I did for a poster contest when I was 10] is special! We have to keep it. You may want it someday.”

Me: Seriously?

His bar for “special” is way lower than mine; this is both endearing and exasperating.

I digress.

This year, I set out to take my purging to new places: namely, my closet and kitchen.  Why these?

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a capsule wardrobe for a while and continually noticed unused items cluttering up both of these places. Plus I figured Hubs wouldn’t be as sentimental about my old shoes and random kitchen gadgets.

Yet even for a purger like me, fear set in as I started to address my closet. Woah. I was putting loads of clothes in giveaway bags. It felt kind of extreme. Wasn’t I going to miss them?

And what about those souvenir mugs, random serving platters, and melon-ballers?

Ok, I didn’t lose as much sleep over those.

Yes, I had some trepidation about donating/selling/throwing away my carload of stuff.

But remembering a favorite quote helped me along the way:


While I can’t say that I follow that rule exactly, in the end my purging choices felt right.

My clothes choices were more limited, but as I probably wore 20% of my things 80% of the time, I didn’t miss anything.  And my kitchen drawers and cabinets have been thanking me for the breathing room.

Actually, I’m so happy with the results that I’ve developed a habit of periodically editing spaces throughout my house.  Now I’m able to more quickly evaluate whether I really do (or will) find something useful or beautiful. If the answer is no, out it goes.

If it’s a maybe, there’s always the adult version of what Tsh (pretty sure it was Tsh) calls “toy purgatory:” put said item in a bag and wait a few weeks. If I don’t miss it, I can chuck it.

Does the idea of purging stress you out or feel liberating?

Further Resources for a Capsule Wardrobe:

The No-Brainer Wardrobe by Haley Morgan — Haley introduced me to the concept and I love her eBook on the topic.

Capsule Wardrobe: Fall 2014 by Jacey at The Balanced Wife

Worldwide Ox Travel Packing List: Women’s Clothing by Tsh at The Art of Simple Travel

The Capsule Wardrobe Goes Traveling by Breanne at This Vintage Moment

P.S., you might also want to check out my blogging-friend Emily’s series, 31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us. It compliments a series on boldness well :).