Doing Good

pretty packaging

For those of you that enjoyed the Wholesome Strawberry Bars yesterday, here is part two: packaging.  

You just need:

  • parchment paper (I keep a stash on hand from the local restaurant store)
  • fabric cut into a long strip (does the yellow look familiar??)
  • a tag (I usually make one but this one I loved from here)

This is one way I like to package baked goods to give to friends and neighbors.

It sure beats a flimsy paper plate.  Enjoy!

(If you want to watch the video full size, click here.)



Before you ask, the singer of O Ganso is one of my favorites: Astrud Gilberto.


the sleepy time gal

a peace journal


At night I come upstairs to a particular book on my night stand.  It is called [amazon_link id="1590388577" target="_blank" ]Forgiving Ourselves: Getting Back Up When We Let Ourselves Down [/amazon_link] by Wendy Ulrich.  It is usually calling to me by the end of the day because I carry guilt so well and rarely let myself off the hook.

Maybe you're like me, or maybe you are not, yet I find that women tend to be the hardest and least forgiving to themselves after all they do and try to do and set out to do.  It is a shame that it happens, and yet, it happens and regularly.  Lately, I've been taking some baby steps to get out of the rut.  One thing I've started is a peace journal.


At the close of each day, I take a few moments and recall the moments where I felt real peace.  Peace in who I am, peace in the life I've been given, peace about a question or struggle, and so on.

Can I tell you how healing it has become?

It used to be I enjoyed the time sitting at the close of the day pondering and recalling, but now I try to be open and aware during the day of the truly peaceful moments.  I savor them so much more while keeping my mind clear and open to keep the peace.

Why write about the daily peace?

Moments of peace wash away any guilt, pain, doubt, or struggle.  For those brief moments, we can see clearly and don't need to know all of the answers.  We can simply enjoy the moment.

Peace Journal entry May 7th 2012:

I felt peace today when I stopped myself from analyzing the rough afternoon and evening with the girls. I decided not be severe, dramatic, fatalistic, and "all-defining" as the book describes.  I worked to talk myself into changing my thoughts and self-talk and finally let myself begin to believe Bobby's text from his hotel that night: "You are an amazing mother". I realized I am trying my best with my hands very full..."

There is a list from [amazon_link id="1590388577" target="_blank" ]Forgiving Ourselves[/amazon_link] that has been doing magical things for me lately:

                    More realistic goals for the habitually self-blaming might be:

  • that our self-recrimination become less severe, less easily triggered, less all-defining, and less- relenting.
  • that we access more hope in the midst of our discouragement, more reassurance of our real worth despite periodic feelings of worthlessness
  • that our trust in God's gentle mercy becomes a brighter beacon in the recurring darkness of the mortal journey
  • that we see the temptation to despair about ourselves as just that, a temptation, rather than as a realistic response to who we truly are
  • that we respond to that temptation with clear thinking, honest prayers, bids for support, realistic efforts to learn and grow, courageous acceptance of our limitations, and deeper trust in God's will and power to save us.

Some of those points are more applicable to me than others.  How about you?  What stands out to you?  I am now accepting that when I feel the despair it is really only a temptation to feel it and believe it.  I can control what to believe about myself, what is hard in life, and what really matters.  The more control, the more peace.  The more peace, the more to write each night...

Indeed it is magical and I am quite grateful.

the sleepy time gal

a lesson on small business


It was totally random.

We had lemons.  It was hot.  And the entrepreneurial spirit was burning within them when I mentioned to the girls that they could keep the money they made.

We quadrupled the lemonade we originally had just made for us.  The table set up, chairs, ice-cold, freshly squeezed lemonade, and a money bowl.  They were set. I knew one little detail they did not. We were conveniently ready for customers about 5 minutes before the public school kids came down the street.  How convenient.  

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Lessons they learned in one hour of selling lemonade:

  1. Presentation, presentation, presentation.  So we found some pretty fabric for a table cloth, Caroline made an adorable sign, and we added sliced lemons to the lemonade.
  2. Treat the customer well.  "Stand and get the lemonade for them.  And make sure you give them their money's worth.  No half-filled cups."  Caroline did quite well.  Johanna on the other hand would fill her glass and drink before I'd have to remind her to serve her waiting customer.  She's learning.
  3. Be prepared.  "They might give you a quarter, but then they might also give you two dimes and a nickel...".  We also tied a plastic bag to Johanna's chair for the empty cups.
  4. Have impeccable manners.   "Don't count your money in front of your customers.  Really, don't."  So we waited until the end of the day and divided it between two ecstatic little girls.  $3 a piece.  I'd say this is the start of something huge.  They would agree...

Kids came, some came twice, some knocked on other neighbors' doors to tell them about our stand, moms came to support and even Daddy pulled in,

unprepared for the crowd in his driveway, thankfully with a quarter in his hand.

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{I couldn't help but take this photo-- yes, the cool dentist glasses.  This current small business owner needed some relief from the sun from a hard afternoon's work.}

After today, a conversation Caroline and I have had many times in the past has returned: starting her little bakery.  Well, it would be a family ordeal for special occasions, led by Caroline and me.  One occasion being an incredible local volunteer opportunity we're in the process of finalizing (more details to come) and then a first annual summer bake sale in our front yard.  Caroline and I have great plans for it.  Artisan loaves, rolls, extra-large muffins, cookies, and all of the things we love to bake.  And the name of our little bakery is so perfect.

This is totally Caroline, by the way.


As Caroline says, "A cookie isn't cooked, it is baked.  Let's name our bakery Bakies."  So we are.

 And on that note, I hope you have a happy May weekend.  I'll be enjoying my nephews on Saturday for Japanese Boy's Day.

the sleepy time gal

four dresses is how I show my love



Good morning to you all!  I hope your weekend was special.  We've been slowly getting back into our routine with OB appointments and such thrown in the mix.

Easter weekend was quite wonderful.  Our "Spring Celebration" was everything I was hoping it would be on Saturday, leaving Sunday to be a quiet, thought-provoking day.


New watering cans were the highlight of the "Spring Celebration."  They filled their cans with jelly beans and the festivities began!  Easter egg hunts and "spring" pictionary inside when we were too cold to bear any more games outdoors and just simple family time together all day.

I happened to think about my girls wearing something special for Easter Sunday last Wednesday.  I couldn't decide what would be easier, looking through mountains of clothes in the basement (around the mice's territory) for something for them to wear or skipping all of that and making something new and fresh.  I opted for the rodent-free option.  (We have caught three mice I am happy to say, that have been sneaking our food storage. Bobby's got the skills.)

Anyway, special dresses.

My weekend was really booked.  So I quickly did a search for the easiest dress on the planet, a pillowcase dress, on Google to get inspired.  I've never made one but knew the idea behind it.  So Friday night I starting cutting out four sets of rectangles with curved corners cut out of the top halves which would become arm holes.  Now I was committed to making it up as I went.  Caroline's dress was whipped up Friday night which wasn't doing much for me.  Since I used my brown linen it just looked like she was wearing a sack of potatoes.

Saturday after the morning festivities I was back sewing in between the next set of activities.

And then, 8:30pm that night was my last attempt to pull something together for everyone.  The dresses really do whip up quite fast.  Two side seams, the trim or hem, bias tape to finish off the arms, and the top sewn for ribbon to be threaded through.

I finished the remaining three dresses in a little over an hour of fast sewing and ironing.



The twins' dresses I knew would be yellow, with the splash of blue as the ribbon and lace for the trim.  Sewing their cotton dresses were easy and easy to like.


Caroline's and Johanna's were another story...


I had to find a way late Saturday night to make them pretty and unique.  I decided to keep the touch of blue and lace theme from the twins' dresses and add something special to the older girls' dresses.


Caroline got a long slender wrap-around pocket with some of Johanna's leftover quilt fabric I've been cutting with of touch of Granny's lace.  Instead of loud colored ribbon to tie off the top of the dress, I used another less busy lace I had shoved in the back of my ribbon drawer.


Johanna's has a different lace at the top with a piece of collar lace that I cut and machine sewed onto the side of her dress.  I happened upon a blue oilcloth covered button I made a few weeks back and sewed it right in the middle.

Doesn't it always work that way - that the dresses you can't stand initially become your favorites??  I was so thrilled with how the linen fell upon my big girls' bodies and the subtle antique details.

(In case you're wondering, they are all wearing white cotton blouses from Target under the pillowcase dresses.)

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(Thanks for sticking with the photo-taking, girls.)


It made my Easter Sunday that much more special to see my girls so thrilled to be wearing something I made them.  If you're new to sewing, this is really the easiest dress out there.  There are many simple tutorials to follow as well, if you wish.  Once you get the basics down the embellishing is the most exciting part.  Once your little girl outgrows the length of the dress, these dresses are adorable with leggings or pants.

Do you have any special family photos to link for us of your family on Easter?  I'd love to see.

much love,

the sleepy time gal

the children say "thank you"


This image overwhelms me.

 Letter after letter of the deepest, most real and honest gratitude for what so many of you did for the children of Ishinomaki, Japan.

 The children that you helped to clothe and feed and cheer up wrote us many thank you's.

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Rie, my good friend who was our connection to this town in Japan came and translated.  Letter after letter, I came to love these boys and girls even more.  I have been so excited to share...



My house, the tsunami wasted it away.  My friend's was washed away, too.  I received pencils and erasers-- that gift made me happy and energized (hopeful).  Thank you so much for your present.  

 Esuke Oishi


In Japan we had an earthquake and our house was damaged.  Everything is coming back together again.  Thank you so much for your care package.



Thank you so much for the letters.  I am so happy!  The tsunami made me so sacred that when I received the letters it made me cheerful.  Thank you very much.  I know sometime we are going to have our hard times in life and someday and I will be thinking of you, every time, as my friends in America.  



Dear friends of America,

Thank you so much for a lot of things in my care package.  These things cheered us up from all over the world.  We are going to make Ishinomaki rise up again some day.  Let's work together.  



Dear friends of America,

Thank you so much for the letter.  It is already past 2 months since the earthquake happened.  I was playing with  American military people the other day because it made me happy because it is you.  The food was very yummy.  Thank you so much.




Thank you so much for all of the snacks and school supplies.  We have a flower blooming in Japan right now.   School starts and makes us feel better to see friends.  I am hoping someday I will see you.



Thank you so much for the package.  It made me very happy!  I was so surprised that care packages came from outside the country.  I am going to keep rising up even though the hard times happened.  Thank you so much for everything.  



Thank you for the letters, pencils, and hair ties.  It helps us a lot.  I got a lot of spirit out of it.  My house, the first floor, most of the stuff is gone.  But I really appreciate your care about us.  Don't worry--all of the people in Japan will keep going and rise up.



This area had  a lot of damage.  But we received letters from you and that made us so happy.  And I really appreciate the supplies and toys. That makes me happy too.   One for All!  (with Sponge Bob illustration)



Thank you so much for letters.  Because of the letters, I am so hopeful and because of that we  didn't give up.  And thank you also for the care package.  I really appreciate  it.



Thank you, Rie, for uniting us to these wonderful children.  Thank you to all of you that sent a box and cheered up so many children who lost so much last year.  I feel at a loss of words-- how grateful I am that these children in Japan have done the talking for me today.

the sleepy time gal



I've loved reading what so many of you are doing right now.  What things are filling your days during this most exciting time of year.  And yet, I can empathize with so many of you that want something more but must be patient.  Many of you that are expecting your own babe this Christmas which means what you want and what you really need are different.  Many of you are without loved ones close by and are feeling that sadness.  Many of you are healing physically from illness (or so are your children) or are healing emotionally from other pains in your life.  Despite what we would wish, life keeps moving, this holiday season pushes through, taking us along with it, whether we're ready or feeling the spirit of it.

We're all in different seasons of our lives, seasons that can change in a flash of a second...


My dear friend awaits a child this Christmas season.  None of the projects or decorations or baked cookies have happened this year for her.  Instead, trips to the ER, bedrest, and unfulfilled dreams of what she wanted for her little ones have been her reality.  As I read of her strength and understanding of this season, it reminded me of the strength of women.  Pregnancy, labor, and nurturing--all of which happen no matter the circumstances, comforts,  or time of year.

And so it was with Mary...


This month I've been preparing what gift I'm going to be giving to the baby Jesus on Christmas Eve night.  Our family writes something down on paper to go inside a special box that stays under the tree.  We work on something in our life for one full year as a gift to the Savior.

This year I know what my gift is. I know what, more than anything else, I need to give and become.  It is something that is seasonless, something that is required of me despite my season in live, hardships, or comforts in life.

It can be summed up in this quotation:

Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don't judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone's differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn't handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another's weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.

Marvin J. Ashton


What would you become this year?

the sleepy time gal



I don't know if there will ever come a day that we bake up cookies of different varieties to eat and give away.  I've always wanted to have a Christmas cookie baking day with my girls, and even planned it this year, but it is always the first thing to drop off the calendar.  Mostly because we most thankfully receive my childhood favorites in tins from my mother and friends always pull through and deliver such delicacies.  By this time of the home stretch to Christmas day, I couldn't fathom baking up any treats since I do my fair share of eating most of the cookies that once lined our counter.


Baking bread on the other hand is different. I know neighbor and friends won't be inundated with people knocking down their door to deliver loaves of bread, so it has kind of become a tradition for us.  We like bread, we like to make it, and I just bought 1,000 brown paper sacks to fill with bread.  So it looks like it will be bread for many years.  (Do you have a Restaurant Store in your area?  You can find great containers, bags, etc., for restaurant prices... just be prepared--you have to buy a lot!)


Since I rarely veer from the familiar, we used the same reliable dry rub for most of the loaves.  It is a surprising and unique blend of brown sugar, rosemary, and basil.  For the loaves that were being rushed into the oven, I simple added poppy seeds to the egg washed top of those loaves.

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The girls loved sliding the perfectly proportioned mini loaves (I divided my dough for a 2 lbs. loaf to make three mini loaves) into the brown paper sacks.  We've been making these loaves some days on, some days off, based on our schedule.  Thank you dough cycle!  We always end up eating one of the loaves ourselves when it is a "on" day.

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And baker's twine.  Lots of baker's twine.  That is my job and my job alone.


The best part? After bundling the whole family with coats, matching gloves, and shoes?  Heading out into the cold black night to deliver.  Singing half of a carol before we're greeted at a door, watching the giddiness of my children in handing over a sack, and then running on to the next house.  Did I mention they're still asking for hot cocoa after every round of deliveries??

the sleepy time gal

what are your traditions?


I know so many homes are bustling with the excitement of Christmas right now. The calendar is filling and many to-dos on the to-do list await to make this special season truly a month of celebration and tradition.

Last night we joined together and did one of our Christmas traditions, that of lying under the Christmas tree with only the lights of the tree glowing in the night.  Then we talk about Christmas, memories, hopes, and such.

I'm so inspired by so many of your Christmas traditions that I'd love to hear more.  Here are a few new ones for us this year...


{Not a fancy tradition, but doing most shopping online on cyber monday gives me the rest of the month to make and assemble presents.  This has definitely helped me be prepared early.}


{Gathering books about Christmas and winter and snow in a basket by the fireplace.  Reading seasonal tales has brought a lot of magic into our home lately.  This out of print book has proven our favorite.  And these:

The Story of Snow Children

Snowy Days: Stories ad Poems

The Christmas Book

The Longest Night

The Snowy Day

Humphrey's First Christmas}


(We're starting a tradition to bake up lots of Christmas loaves to give to neighbors and friends instead of last year's marshmallows or cookies. I'm also going to try my hand at homemade egg nog for the man in this house.  Okay, and me, too.}


What traditions are you continuing this year or are adding to your family's celebrating?  Please share so we can have an on-going list we can all be inspired from!


the sleepy time gal

boxes to japan... for Christmas!


Good morning, friends.  I have so much to say this morning, I don't know where to begin.

Let's start with my friend, Rie.

As many of you remember, she has been our contact to Japan for the Boxes to Ishinomaki project all this year.  With three contacts in Japan, we were able to involve people from all around the world to ship 700 boxes to the most devastated places in Japan earlier this spring.  All I can say is thank you everyone.

All this time Rie and her Japanese friends here in central PA have been organizing bake sales, involving local schools to raise money, and working hard to earn money to send to their home country.  I am happy to say that Rie and her Japanese Relief local group has raised $16,000 for Japan!

The funds have recently been sent to Mr. Oikawa from the non-profit Be 1 Project organization in Japan. (He was our contact for shipping boxes to Sendai). There was a council gathered to decide how to best use the money and the conclusion was to build a boat waiting room for Nonoshima island, Miyagi.  The island has had almost zero help in rebuilding after the earthquake and travel by boat is the only way island people can reach the main land.  Because of the earthquake, this island has sunk and the high tide continues to flood parts of the island.  After over 8 months, this island still doesn't have any super markets or stores.  Apparently the Japanese government hasn't been able to assist this island yet. Now it is beginning to snow as winter approaches Japan.

This is Nonoshima island now:

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And now for the exciting part.... let's send some boxes to this island for Christmas!

The boxes will be shipped to the Be 1 Project to be delivered to this island.

 If you'd like to put together a box during this special time of year here are some ideas:

non-perishable food

Christmas treats (candy and such)

filled stockings

Instead of needing to email me to retrieve the delivery address like before, I will list it below since it is a non-profit organization's address.  I would really love for you to drop me a line in the Contact section if you are committing to send a box before Christmas just to keep tally.

Please send your box to:


C/O Be I Project

Good Speed garage

127-5  Nihonmatsu, Gamou-aza, Miyagino-ku,

Sendai, Miyagi  983-0002


The Boxes to Japan--Christmas Project will end December 25th.  Please send your boxes before then.

Lastly, for you locals, one last Bake Sale (organized by Rie's local Japanese group) will be held this Saturday, December 2nd, at the Carlisle, Barracks here in Carlisle, PA to raise money for this island.  Please come and support their cause if you can!


Well, I am so thrilled. My girls are so excited to put a Christmas package together to brighten some families' lives this season in Japan.  I hope you can help and we can unite together again!

the sleepy time gal

early mornings


How is daylight savings going in your home?  Mornings sure start early over here.

I find myself looking for me time again since it definitely isn't happening in the morning.  Precisely when I begin sneaking out of bed is when half drowsy children begin bounding in the room.


That is one of the hardest lessons to learn in mothering--that of adjusting constantly, even when you've finally figured something out.

 It keeps me on my toes and always aware of my children.  In simple words, flexible for change, whether I want it or not.

With Annabelle ending naps (Ainsleigh, you win the prize for keeping them going), there are little changes that need making.  Initially, they always stress me out until I finally decide to act on creatively coming up with a solution, and then, magically life works again.  I guess it is these constant changes, like daylight savings, that force you to observe life; what works and what doesn't.


And so, another day, another week goes by with ideas waiting to be fulfilled. Maybe today will be the day.


the sleepy time gal