{Caroline's adorable apple pie salt dough ornament}

This is by far the girls' and my favorite time of year because we love to make and create the entire month.  Nutcracker rehearsals become later and longer next week so this has been our week to kick off our creations.

Here's a little of what's brewing in our house this week...



{Huge batch of our favorite homemade granola (variety of nuts, seeds, shredded coconut, melted coconut oil, vanilla, salt, stevia, Vitafiber, and blackstrap molasses) for "cereal" with milk + cream, as a yogurt topping, and for trail mix with freeze dried berries}



{Salt dough (1 cup salt, 2 cups flour, 1 cup water) ornaments that we made, baked for an hour at 250 degrees, painted with watercolors, and glazed with Modge Podge}



{Making an old recipe with the addition of a new ingredient--raw ivory shea butter--for my family + gift giving}

Are you creating/making something for the holidays?  

Or maybe dreaming of something you're itching to get around to for Christmas?? I'd love to hear!

the sleepy time gal

back to {un}school: diy geometric notebooks


Page 1 With a greater family focus this fall on  m a t h, I wanted to kick off our first math night recently with some new materials.  These DIY geometric notebooks were the trick!




"Geometric" math inspired!


These geometric notebooks can be filled with anything, besides math equations.  Use them for:

Math notebook (for equations + problem solving)


Field journals

Notebook for your child's bookbag/tote

Notebook for your purse/handbag



What you'ln Need to make these notebooks:

white printer paper

scrapbook/cardstock (8.5 x 11 or 12 x 12)

sewing machine + thread


  1. Start with GEOMETRIC scrapbook paper.  I found this 12 x 12 paper at Michaels craft store.  (If you use 8.5 x 11 paper you can skip some of the "trimming" steps and follow this tutorial, just doing it horizontal.)


2. Fold one piece of 8.5 x 11 printer paper in half down the center.  Open the fold and use the crease to stack it onto a pile of 15 sheets of white printer paper.  Now center that pile onto the wrong side of one of your 12 x 12 scrapbooking papers.


3. While holding the stack carefully in place, line up the center of the stack, that crease, with your sewing machine needle.  Sew a straight seam down the crease, beginning and ending with a backstitch.


4.  Trim excess thread from the stitching and trim around the two sides (the top and bottom sides) of the book.  Fold the notebook in half on the seam you just sewed.


5. Repeat until you have a ton of notebooks.  (Remember these are awesome as gifts, having different notebooks for different parts of the house, one for the car, one per child, etc.)


6. If you've made these for a specific task (say, homeshooling or to keep as a sketchbook in your child's backpack) find a pack of cool mechanical pencils that have a clip to clip onto each notebook.  I found these geometric pencils at Target. Page 2

Now you're set!  I keep our "Math Night" notebooks together with their pencils to bring out weekly.


Next on Back to {Un}School: How to Create A Fun Math Night with your Family


I hope you try the tutorial and use up all that extra cardstock/scrapbook paper you have lying around.

I'm telling you--these notebooks are such a luxury to have for me and my kids.  You've got to try them!


the sleepy time gal


how to make a bug hotel (and let your kids enjoy the bugs as pets!)


How to Make Bug Hotels (1) As we are discovering what rhythms work and don't work in our days of homeschooling, one rhythm always works: Monday morning explore time.

After the busy Saturday ballet day for the girls and the quieter, introspective Sabbath day, I always crave order of the house while the kids are dying to get outdoors to explore.  It's a morning to get our needs met before diving more fully into a new week.


Yesterday, I discovered my children had made the most incredible creations from their exploration: bug hotels.


Here's a simple outdoor project that inspires creativity, problem solving, nature exploration, and many more skills...


Before the cold weather chases the insects away, set aside a morning or weekend for your kids to make their own bug hotels.  Here are the basics, based on what worked so well for my kids:


  1. Adopt a bug!  We've gathered crickets, caterpillars, and millipedes.  It helps if there are an extra set of hands to help hold the captured bug while your child is preparing for Step 2.
  2. Use a cardboard box as the "hotel".  My kids solved many problems while making their hotels like determining that caterpillars could live in wide, more flat boxes while crickets needed taller boxes with flaps (that they taped together) to keep the insect from jumping out.  Let your child discover their own insect's needs with a little of your guidance, if requested.
  3. Find out what your insect likes to eat.  Older kids can do this on their own via the internet.  If they need help, guide them on the computer or in an insect guide.
  4. Fill the hotel with niceties: food, water, leaves, rocks, decorations, etc.  This is the fun part for kids!  My oldest learned that crickets like to burrow in dirt to keep cool, for shelter, safety from predators, and to find food.  So piles of dirt (with food hidden beneath) were added to her hotel.

IMG_5155 4. Have fun with your bug pet!  Let your kids add their miniature toys, legos, and dollhouse furniture to their bug hotel to create a real world for them.   It is so fun to see how nurturing children are to their "pet", even if it is a bug, in playing with it, stroking it (like Annabelle's dear FuzzBall caterpillar), setting up a home with activities + specific rooms, and thinking ahead of what needs/comforts they would guess a bug would want for the day.


5.  Depending on the bug, free it when your child feels ready to or keep it a bit longer!  Our crickets enjoyed their hotels and owners for most of the morning and then were released.  FuzzBall the Caterpillar has been around for over 24 hours!  He is happy and well and still carefully cared for on the back porch in his beautifully decorated, well-thought-out hotel.


What bug do you predict your child would want to adopt most of all?


Go out + live boldly!


the sleepy time gal

friends + japanese calligraphy


IMG_2847 Yesterday we enjoyed friends we haven't seen for a while and practiced a new art: Japanese calligraphy.

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I was in charge of keeping my toddler and my friend's toddler at bay while my friend guided and directed each of my girls with calligraphy.

I love the beauty of Japanese calligraphy and always have since taking a Japanese Art class in college. (I was an Art History major.)  There is something about the contrast of simple, intentional strokes of the black ink on crisp white rice paper that is absolutely beautiful in its simplicity.



By the time both little toddler boys had had enough of sharing with each other and naps were approaching, we had an amazing pile of calligraphy covering my table.


Goodbyes were said and the very content feeling of friendship lingered in my home the rest of the day.  There's nothing better than feeling loved by someone gently teaching and inspiring your children.


the sleepy time gal

video: what kids learn through creating


IMG_2776 SO much learning can happens with our kids every day when we simply inspire them.

Yesterday morning we had table time and I brought out art supplies, art paper, and, something new.  


If you saw on Instagram yesterday (find me here), I'm in the process of making over our less functional "art room" for something better.  In the early morning I began filling a box with tattered and unexciting childrens books during the room makeover.  I let the kids use the too-worn-to-donate childrens books for any creative project they could imagine.  You would have thought I just announced free chocolate cupcakes for a lifetime or something by their initial surprise and then total excitement!

And their creations were even more spectacular than I could have imagined.

Skills my 6 year old girls mastered from one morning of creating:

  • tape rolling to create double sided tape
  • making water + powdered tempera paint to get the right consistency paint
  • how to compensate for too much powdered paint to water
  • delicate, detailed cutting
  • multi-medium, collage layout
  • coming up with a system to take turns with the best pair of scissors
  • creating a unique story for their particular project
  • checking in with me on how to spell particular works for their project


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I like to put supplies out, maybe suggest a few ideas and then step back.  They hear me remind them often while I'm in the kitchen or elsewhere to let me know if they need my help.  And then their real work begins.  All of my kids start at the table and sometimes their ideas lead them to gathering supplies from other rooms or merging their creative work on the table with some creative play elsewhere.



Here's a cute little video segment of Annabelle + Ainsleigh's intense work at the table.  My favorite is Ainsleigh's focus as she masters rolling tape--all on her own!


the sleepy time gal

table time: planning a garden





IMG_2646 IMG_2662

Our four raised beds have been weeded and now after yesterday morning's "table time" we have four gardener's plans for the garden this year.

A handful of pre-written garden term wordstrips made the garden planning easier for my beginner writers to copy onto their garden plan.  A little glitter glue and this year's illustrated plans came out beautifully!


Looks like everyone wants to try planting watermelon again.  Let's hope we get more than two baby melons.


Are you planting a garden this summer?  What are your garden plans??


the sleepy time gal

rowan's no-sew felt quiet book


Add a little bit of body text (1) I'm very picky about felt projects.  There are so many felt projects out there that look too crafty or not well thought out.  Not that I'm a felt snob but if I'm going to use felt for something I want the project to maintain high quality and craftsmanship.  This may be why this felt quiet book took so long to finish; I would start a page and a week later totally change it because it looked too cheesy.  (Do you creative people know where I'm coming from??)

I remember putting a lot of time and love into Annabelle and Ainsleigh's special personalized soft books when they were young.  They treasured them.  Rowan somehow missed out on getting one of those, still doesn't have a baby book filled out, nor has a first year photo album like his sister have.

It has been a really satisfying feeling putting the finishing touches on his felt quiet book, though, and having him on my lap this past Sunday playing with it for the first time.

I hope my felt page designs and tips give you the confidence to make your own no-sew felt quiet book.  Come and see...



Why no-sew?

I wanted to put more emphasis into the details of each page of this felt book and not be constrained to the machine.  That is the advantage to working with felt: you can cut felt without needing to finish off edges.  I decided to do absolutely no sewing (except the binding) so the entire book would be consistent in terms of tension/stretch on each page of the book.  

Hot glue is the key for this whole project.

For the quiet book, all you need is different colors of felt (I used both craft + wool felt), sharp fabric scissors, metal snaps (for closure) , and hot glue gun + glue stick refills.

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 {The winter scene activity: 3 snowmen, rainy day gear, sneakers, small pieces for buttons + noses, hats, arms, and cold weather gear.  This activity page has the smallest pieces on it.}


Tip: To make your felt book project even easier, buy a precut package of craft felt sheets at any fabric or craft store.  These felt sheets (usually around 10" x 13" sheets) can be used as your book's pages--no need to cut felt pieces into pages.



 {The summer scene activity: the beach scene!  All of the elements from our beach trips like seagulls, a crab, bucket with sand, shovel, sandcastles, puddle, little boy + his beach ball, and clouds.}


Tip: Glue down the basic backdrop of your felt play scenes onto your felt sheets.  This makes it easy for a child to build onto the scene with the moveable felt pieces and not have to remember what the scene is supposed to be.  In the beach scene, I hot glued the ocean, sand, sun, and birds.  Rowan simple adds to the scene with extra details in his play.

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{The create-a-face activity: there are multiple hair styles, eyes, glasses, noses, lips, a beard + mustache, crown, and bows.}

Tip: Play around with your felt pages in terms of vertical and horizontal layout.  I liked my face activity vertical so there was room enough for the beard, bow tie, and tall hair.



{The favorite foods plate activity: fruits, vegetables, chicken leg, eggs + sausage, BACON, dark chocolate, gingerbread cookie, hot cocoa, ice water, and utensils.}

Tip: When making a narrow felt piece, hot glue a felt detail onto the piece to make it more sturdy and less flimsy, like my utensils.

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{The loadable dump truck activity:  add the truck's wheels and load the truck (which really is a pocket) with either rocks or shapes.}

Tip: Make your felt pages more realistic by adding depth.  You add depth by hot gluing another layer onto the base felt piece, like the outer piece with cut-out squares I added to the dump truck.


{The birthday ice cream shop activity: load your bowl or cone with your favorite scoops of ice cream!  Don't forget the celebration balloons.}

Tip: Add glitter, ric rac, beads, and other decorations to create a 3D effect.  I added hot glue + glitter to some of the ice cream scoops to create the drizzled topping effect on the ice cream.


 Where do I store all of the felt pieces?

After you've created each felt page and its pieces, cut out large felt pockets, one per activity page.  Hot glue the sides and bottom of each pocket onto the back of each activity page (excluding the last activity page--it won't need a pocket on its' back).

Fill each pocket with the coordinating pieces for the activity page that the pocket faces.  That means the first activity page's felt pieces will be stored in a pocket you secure to the inside of the book's cover.


How do I bind + close the book?

You have two options for binding your book.  I chose the easiest which was using my sewing machine.  I know this is a no-sew book but if you can machine sew the binding it will be your quickest, easiest option.

Simple sew the pages together with a seam and then sandwich the pages into the cover and sew one more seam.

Handsewing option:

If you don't have a sewing machine, simply hand sew the binding to create a strong binding.  I do not recommend using hot glue for the binding.


Add a few metal snaps to the cover flap for closing the book.  Follow the no-sew snap instructions which will require a hammer.  A few snaps will do the trick.




I hope you make a no-sew felt quiet book.  Make pages based on activities and themes that your child/grandchild loves.  Rowan's favorite pages are the dump truck and food pages, of course.


Which page was your favorite??


the sleepy time gal





{with new bulk velvet ribbon from the amazing PA Fabric Outlet that is devastatingly going out of business}


{poetry and riddles and rhythms inspired by the older girls' homeschooling poetry class}


 {miniature embroidered treasures like fairy houses, snails, and balloons--now to find a way to display them all}


 {a special gift with Annabelle and Ainsleigh's tracing/cutting help for a little friend's birthday this weekend}

"It is better to create than to learn! Creating is the essence of life."

Julius Caesar


Happy weekend, friends!


the sleepy time gal





 {felt flowers to turn into gifts and possibly Johanna's first business venture}


{illustrations based on ballet positions} IMG_0698

{valentines--all of Ainsleigh's are for Grandma}




{stories prompted by [amazon_link id="1590308123" target="_blank" ]Rip the Page!: Adventures in Creative Writing[/amazon_link]


 {tiny paper-scrap messes}

What are you and yours making this week?

the sleepy time gal



a child learns: "mixing things up" without technology


IMG_0438  Winter.

Winter means more time spent indoors.  Especially for my kids lately.  There has been a coyote in our neighborhood recently and so, needless to say, my girlies haven't had their daily fill of fresh, outdoor air.

Before I even begin to write this post I must clarify.  Our family uses technology.  My kids use the iPad.  We have movie night.  The kids love Wild Kratts on Instant Amazon Prime and they've loved [amazon_link id="B007I1Q4MM" target="_blank" ]The Magic School Bus collection[/amazon_link] we gave Annabelle for Christmas.

We use technology.  But we do limit it so there is more living and producing rather than consuming.

This is definitely one of those seasons in parenting, specifically homeschooling (thank you, three-legged coyote), when the normal routine needs an exciting, sporadic mix up, for the kids (and mom) without heavily relying on technology.

Here are some simple ways to bring life, excitement, and inspiration to those monotonous days that will actually deliver more positive results than you'd think...



Two things I've observed about kids and technology:

  1. When my kids have been "consuming" too much technology (even good stuff), they become bored, less creative, less innovative, and less able to come up with their own play/work after being entertained visually.
  2. When my kids are given new materials, old materials in a new way, or a new situation to discover, their minds expand, they problem solve, create, and, always, are further inspired for hours or even days later, in continuing something that stood out to them during that previous inspiring session of play/learning.




I try to reserve my kids' time on the iPad or watching something for specific times during the week.  So when I can tell that the natives are getting restless, I have a mental grab bag to pick from of inspiring activities for them to try out, maybe love, or use as a starting place for further inspiring play at that critical moment.

Create your own physical list or "mental grab bag" of ideas to refer to so you'll never have the excuse that you couldn't think beyond the television.  Your children will have more fun and you'll have a happier, more content household. :)

Here are some of our favorites.


My mental grab bag for "mixing things up" for younger kids:


"Mixing things up" for older kids:

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Every family's approach to "mixing things up" will look different because every family gravitates to different interests/skills/priorities.

Here are a few more specific ways to change things up without using technology.

More specific ways of "mixing things up":

  • Encourage focused "collage play": Set up a workspace with a variety of art mediums (pastels, crayons, paints, clay), scissors, stack of colored paper, dry beans/noodle, beads, etc., and glue
  • Encourage restaurant/store play: Set out a variety of canned food, boxed food, fruits + vegetables, and non-food items set up around a room with shopping bags, and cash register + money, if possible
  • Bring out that project you've promised your kids you'd help them with they received from Christmas or a birthday and inspire their problem solving capabilities


(I love these girls' end product of some "mixing things up" that we did recently.  It started with fabric paint and fabric and ended with these much needed personal clutches for all their tiny, important little things that go here and there with them.  Don't you love them??)



What started out as a fun paint on fabric project turned into an afternoon project of simple sewing, clipping, ironing, and such pride for these two girls.  And now, after having the sewing machine out and new ideas floating through the air, the older girls have a list of "things to make" and are excitedly focused on them this week.  Inspiration and creativity is contagious.  And something that expands everyone's mind.

Try out something new this week for your kids before you reach for the remote.  I promise magical things can happen.


More on the series:

 a child learns: stop comparing

a child learns: how to get started

a child learns: in the car

a child learns: why I unschool

a child learns: socialization pt. 2

a child learns: socialization pt. 1 

a child learns: owning your life / planning

a child learns: owning your life / dreaming

a child learns: trust yourself

a child learns: trust children

a child learns: the decision 

a child learns: the series

the sleepy time gal