6th annual bake off




{Our entry this year.  Recipe link below and definitely a gem of a recipe.}




Page 2 IMG_5452 Page 1{First year competitor, Maya, takes home the trophy with her decadent chocolate cake + chocolate buttercream frosting.  She was quite proud of her work.}

IMG_5407 We are always blessed with the most beautiful, clear, fall days when it's our Bake Off.

This year we had new competitors, adorable entries, and family recipes entered into the competition.

The girls and I decided to use some of our apples from our recent trip to the orchard to incorporate into our recipe.  We were very impressed with these Gluten-Free Soft Batch Apple Cider Gingersnap Cookies.  Instead of putting applesauce in the dough (as it called for) we processed a huge honeycrisp apple from the orchard.  We were a little intimidated with the large amount of apple cider vinegar (1/2 cup since we doubled it) that the recipe called for but oh, did it make the cookies absolutely amazing!

One of my favorite parts of our Bake Off is watching the children hold their prized work and tell us about it: ingredients, the process, their favorite part, things they changed, their problem solving, innovative decorations, etc.  Once the tallies are in (which the oldest kids take care of) everyone is excitedly anticipating to hear the outcome.  Such good, happy competition!


If you want to host your own Bake Off here are all the details to start your own tradition!

Organize a Mommy/Child Bake Off


the sleepy time gal




IMG_3746 {O c t o b e r}

The sunlight continues to change throughout the day, the way it moves on my walls and counters.  I've been playing the familiar game with my camera's aperture + shutter speed that I do this time every year...


In the fridge I have these fall Pumpkin Pie Fat Bombs from one of my favorite health/recipe blogs, Healthful Pursuits.  They are made of simple homemade coconut butter (processed coconut oil + shredded coconut) with pumpkin puree, stevia, and spices.  I added a bit of blackstrap molasses to the recipe.

These are a great snack for us when we need something satisfying and quick--like before the girls' ballet with a glass of milk/almond milk. IMG_3758

I just finished yet another extra large legal notepad which is full of notes, daily schedules, and the likes.  Like most other things in our house since the "tidying" this summer, my precious notepad always returns to the miscellaneous drawer when not being used.  As the girls hear me remind often, "Everything has a place."  Maintenance is a million times easier when we all follow this.


The return of more countertop play time for my boy.   With girls gone every evening for ballet he likes staying close to my side while I make dinner.  He talks and sings and taste-tests with me.


And an exciting tutorial coming soon!


I love October.  


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

our fall harvest party....


IMG_3297 Good morning.

I hope you all had a fun + festive weekend with your families and friends.

I'm happy to report that my injury is getting better every day.  And that our Fall Harvest Party was so enjoyable.  Ironically, our party always starts right before it is totally dark outside.  With more tiki lights and the addition of one string of white lights on the food table, kids played, adults talked, and we were able to keep the romantic appeal of a night under the stars.

Come see our Fall Harvest Party (and some of the background stories that go along with every gathering)...



{I wanted a little more sophisticated tabletop from last year with white (painted pumpkins), gold (glittered pumpkin + jar), marigolds, and natural fibers (burlap + our log rounds I love to entertain with).  

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 {Our centerpiece pumpkin.  It's first life was as a lollipop holder (decorated by my friend!) for our church Fall Carnival.  Then she donated it to our Fall Harvest Party.  A little white paint, glitter, and those garden marigolds...}


{What would I do without mindful friends?  My friend thankfully texted me the morning of the party to check in to see if I needed anything.  Oh how I needed some help from being less mobile and not driving!  She picked up fruit and turned it into the cutest addition to my log round tiers.} 


{Grandma Shiffler organized a project with my girls to make these beautiful fall leaf candle jars.  Of course they would take center stage for the party!}



 {And simple little favors for families with kids: currently our favorite fall activity shaped as pumpkins.}



{The kids helped come up with games.  There was Caroline and Johanna's Bean Bag Toss + Bobbing for Apples down at the bottom of our yard. } 

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{And a little fall craft station of our tried and true paper pumpkins.  Kids taped and gabbed here throughout the night...}

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 {And last but not least... our fall photo corner.  Annabelle did the scarecrow and Ainsleigh did the pumpkins.  And I sat on ice and added details as we made this the morning of the party. :)  It's been hanging in our living room since then because I love it so much. }

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The night was crisp and exciting, kids running around while adults talked and warmed by the fire.


IMG_3485 Costumes stayed intact for the first hour until most of my kids asked to take them off.  Apparently "getting in the way" of play.  Fine by me.

So many adorable costumes , lively games, soaken wet kids from "bobbing", and so many memories made that night...

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It was a magical, fall night indeed.  Thanks to good food (thanks to all of the delicious food everyone brought!), folk music in the background, kids being kids, and wonderful friends and family coming together for these last moments of autumnal bliss.  


the sleepy time gal




fall time with kids: fall sensory bin (colored rice + seeds)

FALL TIME WITH KIDS SERIES If you're familiar with the Montessori approach to raising/educating children, you've probably heard of sensory bins or sensory play.   The idea of a contained activity that invites and stimulates a child's senses during explorative play is quite brilliant.  And, if you have children and have ever created an "invitation to play" (that's the Montessori phrase) via a "station" you probably will have noticed how thrilling and satisfying it is for your child.

I love sensory bins because it is something I can bring out for one (or more) of my younger children when I need to start dinner or give attention to another child.  Sensory bins invite digging, scooping, setting up, arranging, rearranging, imaginative play, and so forth.  There is definitely play and learning happening at the same time for young hands and minds.

I'm excited about out fall sensory bin because it can be set up based on the child and their interests/developmental level.  I'll be sharing the basic fall sensory bin with a fall fairy version and a toddler version.  Come check it out...


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Assembling the basic fall sensory bin:

Recently after we hulled sunflower seeds and found ourselves with a bowl full of beautiful seeds, I knew the seeds could be perfectly used in a fall sensory bin.  Sunflower seeds + birdseed (which adds another dimension of texture) would be perfect together.

And since I like having a variety of colors and textures in our bin we added one of our favorite means of sensory play: colored rice.  Have you ever tried it?  It is so easy to make and stores beautifully.

Here's how...


Here's how to make colored rice:


You'll need:



food coloring

ziplock bags


Two methods for coloring rice:

1.  The easiest way to color rice is to scoop a cup of rice into a ziplock bag, add a few drops of food coloring, seal, and shake.  After a minute or so of shaking, your rice will be colored!  Now continue the process with individual bags for individual colors until you have the variety of colored rice you want.  (I store my colored bags of rice in their baggies in a plastic container in my pantry.)


2.  For this fall sensory bin, I simply colored the rice all in one bowl to create multi-colored rice.  I wanted the rice to resemble the variety of colors from the changing leaves.  Simply add a few drops of red and mix with a fork.  Then add a drop of orange and mix.  Lastly, add a few drops of yellow and mix.

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As you can see, you will get a beautiful range of fall-colored rice to add to your fall sensory bin.

Now for the tools.


Choosing the right tools greatly depends on the size of your bin.  If you are using a small shallow bin then your tools need to be smaller.  If your bin is a deep container then you can use larger buckets, shovels, and so on.


Our tools for our fall sensory bin include:

Fall Fairy version:

  • a mini pumpkin house
  • fairies that live in the pumpkin house
  • cinnamon sticks (for tracing letters or numbers in the rice/seeds)
  • pebbles
  • pinecones
  • acorns
  • bark
  • feathers
  • big leaves
  • wooden trees + mushrooms
  • different size spoons + measuring cups


Toddler version (I put less "things" in this version):

  • our favorite multi-purpose wooden stacking bowls (for scooping and pouring)
  • different size spoons + measuring cups
  • cars + trucks
  • toy animals
  • rocks
  • bark (for scraping and pushing)
  • cinnamon sticks (for doodling in the rice/seeds)
  • any small toys that can be manipulated, played with, or serve multiple purposes

*You might want to put a table cloth under the sensory bin for your toddler to keep the seeds/rice in one place.  After your toddler is finished playing, simple shake the bitty pieces back into the bin for next time.




Note:  Older children are more inclined to keep the sunflower seeds, rice, and bird seed in rows but forget it with toddlers.  If you have older and younger kids, let the older kids play first with the sensory bin after you set it up so that they can enjoy the separate rows of seeds and rice.  Then your younger kids can freely mix up the seeds and rice.  Once all mixed together, the bin remains perfect for play, scooping, and other play. IMG_3036

What would your children love to have in a sensory bin?  

Leaves they've collected?  Acorns?  

Or miniature toys? Make your fall sensory bin personalized to your kids.  They will return to the bin over and over again and love adding all of the little "reminders" of fall that they find outdoors.


Continue the fun of Fall Time with Kids with:

the sleepy time gal














fall time with kids: preserving leaves

Clen Fall time in Pennsylvania is one of the most rewarding reasons to live here.

We go on many leaf collecting walks to find the prettiest leaves to use for a myriad of projects back at home.   And as it always turns out, our most beautiful, colorful leaves are found to be crisp and brown within a few days.  Such is the nature of these beautiful specimens.


But what if you could preserve their supple and vibrant nature?  

Have you ever tried preserving leaves??  The process is so very simple and so rewarding to do.  It requires only two basic ingredients and once preserved, the sky is the limit as to how you use/decorate with your leaves throughout the fall season.  You could even use your leaves for your Thanksgiving table!!

And your kids, young and old, will love the process.  Come check it out...

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1. Go leaf collecting.

We left our neighborhood and headed straight for the most beautiful maples in town.  Have your kids find the boldest colored leaves.  Hint: yellow leaves and red leaves work best.  Their color will be preserved the closest to their orginial color.  Leaves with hints of brown will become a deeper brown.



A full basket of leaves is the perfect amount.

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2.  Preserve your leaves.

You'll need:

  • a flat bucket
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1.5 cups glycerine (I use this or pick it up at a craft store)

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Simply mix the water and glycerine together in the bucket. Have your kids add their leaves to the water mixture.  Push down gently on the wet pile of leaves so all of the leaves are submerged.

Take the bucket of leaves to a dark, dry place (our basement storage room was our spot) and leave the leaves for 3-4 days. IMG_2924


After the "preserving days" are complete, dump your water out and gently pull out your leaves, patting them dry.

You will find them to be beautifully supple with a slight sheen to them.  And that is it!  You've preserved the most beautiful part of fall!


 Choose your most favorite leaves to: 

  • hang on bare branches to create a fall tree indoors
  • tie onto yarn for a beautiful natural fall garland
  • paint numbers or letters with white paint on them for spelling or counting (love this idea)
  • use for the Thanksgiving dinner table as personalized place cards




{Our simple but beautifully natural fall mantel garland.}


 How would you use your preserved leaves? 



Continue the fun of Fall Time with Kids:


the sleepy time gal

fall time with kids: pumpkin play dough

h o n e y c o m b (2)
h o n e y c o m b (2)

We make a lot of homemade play dough around here and always have.  The process is fascinating for kids to watch as the dry ingredients are stirred over heat to produce a goopy ball that is finally transformed into a colorful mound of fun.

This fall we've loved creating a new recipe for the season that all of my children have gone wild over: pumpkin play dough.   Chef Rowan likes to top mini pie tins with play dough, the twins have been rolling out the fragrant dough and making spicy pumpkin leaf cookies, and the older girls like to make elegant mini pumpkin pies that look and smell absolutely amazing.


I love this play dough recipe because it isn't the edible variety.  (Sure, your kids can try it under the table and it wouldn't hurt them.  It's based on my standard play dough recipe of flour and salt.)  I'm not a big fan of the "edible play dough" that yes, may include real pumpkin (which means it also would need refrigerating) but is also loaded with sugar.   So somehow your edible play dough isn't played with for long it is all eaten under the table.  Am I the only one that feels this way??

Our pumpkin play dough looks and smells absolutely incredible!  Using all of the warm fragrant spices of fall, pumpkin pies, apple cider, and beyond, this recipe is simple to whip up with everything you already have in your pantry.  Your kids will be amazed at how fun it is to create and "bake" with the perfectly pumpkin-colored and naturally scented play dough.


It can easily be stored in the pantry, craft room, or within reach of toddlers and younger kids to pull out when they're ready to play.  No need to refrigerate!

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{The youngest chef getting into the "combine all ingredients" step.}


{Quite the chef, isn't he?  The apron + chef's hat were handmade gifts from his Gaummie for his birthday.  }

 He's ready...

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...And let the baking begin!

Creating a pumpkin pie creating station:

  • one batch of pumpkin play dough
  • any variety of tart, tartlet, or metal pie pans
  • metal pie slicer tool
  • butter knife or kid's safety knife
  • variety of cookie cutters
  • rolling pin
  • kid's apron

Put all of the supplies out on the table and watch your kids create, "bake", and decorate their pies.


This may be one of our favorite flavors of play dough we've made.  It is such a beautiful color and the incredible smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove are always in the air as kids are rolling and creating at the table.

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Everyone becomes their own chef when pumpkin play dough is out.  Seriously.  Everyone drops what they're doing and comes to create.


I hope you and your kids give the recipe a try.  Hours of fun are waiting to be had at your table this fall!

And stay tuned to the rest of Fall Time With Kids week!


 the sleepy time gal

fall time with kids: crafts, recipes, and exploring

FALL TIME Good morning!

I love waking up to a chilly house in the middle of October.  It is officially fall here in Pennsylvania.  A small handful of yellow leaves remain on our trees out front and the time it takes to get five kids out the door with socks, tied shoes, and coats is double what it was a month ago.

Fall: a magical season for children and adults alike.  I'm excited to celebrate that magic for one whole week with new and exciting crafts, recipes, and opportunities to explore and create memories with your children this special season.

So stay tuned, bundle up, and come along for a colorful, creative week created just for you and your loved ones.  


Wanna see all the Fall Time with Kids posts?


the sleepy time gal

breakfast pumpkin & spice protein shake

breakfast pumpkin and spice protein shake
breakfast pumpkin and spice protein shake

Good morning.

I'm excited to share one of my favorite indulgences (which is a healthy indulgence) that I make during my week.  I like to make this shake for myself for breakfast when Bobby is out of town or for a post workout protein treat/snack.  It was wonderful ingredients of pumpkin, protein, almond butter, and hemp seeds.  I think you'll enjoy it...

breakfast pumpkin & spice protein shake

Makes roughly four cups

1 handful of ice

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

1 TBSP  almond butter

1/3 cup pumpkin puree

1 TBSP hemp seeds

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses (or maple syrup if paleo)

a drop of almond extract


Add all of the ingredients to the blender.  Then add enough water to cover 2/3 of the ingredients in the blender.  Blend for 1-2 minutes depending on the power of your blender.  Pour into your glass and garnish with hemp seeds and a cinnamon stick as a straw.

This recipe really is intended for one person--two tall glasses per recipe-- for a meal replacement or awesome post workout.  It is absolutely filling and satisfying for one person, but you could always share. :)

Total Stats:

Calories-- 346

Carbs-- 12 net

Protein--38 grams

breakfast pumpkin and spice protein shake
breakfast pumpkin and spice protein shake

Hope you enjoy this festive shake--It has become one of my favorites this time of year.  Have a wonderful weekend.


fabric pumpkins










Yesterday's sewing class--Thanksgiving edition--of my big girls and their two friends was all about fabric pumpkins.  Once pumpkins were handsewn (lots of running stitches), cocoa and marshmallows enjoyed, and my girls were off to Nutcracker rehearsal, I had quiet, special time with my twins for them to make the biggest pumpkins of all.  As the night continued with later rehearsals, I excitedly brought my basket of yarn along to wait and sew and bring a few more pumpkins to life while angels shuffled in the dance studio next to me.

Fabric pumpkins are absolutely exhilarating to make.  It pretty much is taking a square tube (a long rectangle--cut on the bias-- folded in half and sewn down one side to create a square) and then doing a running stitch on the bottom (and cinching and tying off), stuffing with filling, and doing a running stitch on the top (cinching and tying off).  Then you use yarn to go in and out of the pumpkin through the middle (you definitely need a yarn needle for this).  Add a stuffed fabric stem and hand sew it secure and you are done!   I looked at this tutorial and then did it a bit my way.

Now we have an overflowing pile of pumpkins.  The girls are quite proud about taking them to my in-laws tomorrow to decorate with for Thanksgiving dinner.  I've laid down the law of "no pumpkin throwing" since some of the earlier-made pumpkins are a bit more delicate.  But they sure do make a pretty sight this time of year.  Especially knowing that each of my girls has their very own to showcase.

Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow, friends! 

the sleepy time gal